It has been a long time since I was part of the back-to-school cohort, at least when it involved education that was not of my choosing. As I recall, there was the requisite B2S prep and shopping, with one of the most important tasks being deciding what to wear for the first day. It was usually tights and plaid and a sweater, even though the weather inevitably had more in common with August than the Sears Catalogue’s edict of appropriate fall student attire. I mention this because I have just been perusing the August Costco magazine (which, of course, arrived in July), the back-to-school issue.
It contains the usual advertorials about food products in packages bigger than your head, prescribed for school lunches and “easy weeknight dinners” (Costco being an appropriate source if you are feeding a family of 12 or have a freezer the size of an elephant). Costco also touts things they believe should be on the classroom preparatory list.
Here are some items they think are essential.
- A package of 30 BIC highlighters. Thirty! I think I still have highlighters from 1990 in my junk drawer. And they still work. Further, what do kids have to highlight these days? When the (rare) need to highlight anything arises, I select the text and let Word do it. Which would explain not needing to buy a highlighter since the latter years of the past century.
- Mechanical pencils (package of 34). Unless I am mistaken, the purpose of a mechanical pencil is to serve as one’s one-and-only pencil, because it has an endless supply of lead. (Note, however, Costco does not seem to sell mechanical pencil refills, perhaps because they are encouraging the order-of-magnitude built-in obsolescence its packaging appears to promote.)
- A geometry set. Surely, more than two decades into the 21st century, someone should have come up with some other method than physical compasses and protractors to teach geometry. My junk drawer also has an elderly geometry set kicking around. Who knew there was still a market for them?
- A Casio scientific calculator. Scientific calculators barely existed when I was in high school, although those who were more scientifically inclined than me (and that would be everyone) were delighted when calculators made the slide rule obsolete. However, I know for a fact that Excel dispenses pretty much every version of mathematic formula anyone (except maybe rocket scientists at Cape Canaveral) would ever need. What’s that you say? The digital natives don’t know how to use Excel? No problem. For $500 and hour, I’ll be happy to teach them.
- Z-Grip Flight ballpoint pens. Yet another package of thirty. I’m pretty sure I heard that most schools no longer teach cursive writing. How our future tax payers will learn to sign their names remains a mystery, but maybe that’s its own full year course. I’m a little confused about what they need ballpoint pens for. Printing, I guess. Or maybe just as a backup for when their mechanical pencils run out.
But then again, isn’t this what happens when you make many tens of trips around the sun? Everything old is new again. Or scratch that. Everything old is apparently still relevant. What a relief.