Tag Archives: back to school

Going back to school the expensive/American way

I never really minded going back to school when I was a kid. I lived a fair way from the rest of my schoolmates, so it was always good to catch up with friends. And besides, I always had a relatively immature fascination with getting a new pencil case, and filling it with HB pencils, a four colour crayon pen, and a rubbereraser that I’d probably picked up as a souvenir from Rhyl or Porthmadog.

Fast forward 20 years, and The Young Ones are currently in bed ahead of their first day back at school after more than eight weeks of blissful freedom. To say that they’re less keen on the first day back (and for The Youngest, the first day at a new school) would be an understatement. I’ve seen happier inmates chomping down a last cheeseburger on Death Row.

The dismay they’re feeling right now is nothing compared to what I felt trooping around Staples on Saturday, seeking all the items on a school supplies list that covered two sides of a fairly large piece of paper. From a set square that The Youngest will categorically never use in her life right through to a remarkable sixty ballpoint pens, I’ve seen shorter Oscar acceptance speeches than this list.

Some of the requirements made no sense. Is there really any need for two pencil sharpeners, for example? The Young Ones are pretty damn talented, don’t get me wrong, but even they draw the line at sharpening two pencils at once.

The thing that I quickly realised is that all the pens, mechanical pencils and paper aren’t even for the individual use of The Youngest and The Eldest. The school they both attend is extremely well-regarded and successful, but like most state-funded schools in the US it would appear, the phrase “state-funded” doesn’t actually mean that much. And it certainly doesn’t mean “we’ll buy pens and paper so that your kids can get a basic education.” Luckily, if the government gets parents to buy all this stuff instead so that the class can have a well stocked stationery store for the year ahead, it can afford to spend that little bit extra on new air fresheners for tanks in Iraq. Makes me proud to be a taxpayer, I can tell you.

With the whole of New York seemingly heading back to school on Tuesday, one of those tanks would actually have been useful in navigating the aisles of Staples. Imagine the carnage of the JanuaryThanksgiving sales, but with the unmistakeable candy-induced violent blood-curdling screaming that can only brought on by being unwillingly dragged around a store. Luckily the effect of the Skittles I’d eaten wore off eventually, and I calmed down long enough to engage in a lengthy discussion with The Youngest about the dubious merits of buying left handed scissors when you’re distinctly right-handed.

All I want to know is why we didn’t have to buy a protracter or a pair of compasses? I’m guessing that trigonometry is dead. Who needs angles when you’ve got the Jonas Brothers, eh?