Thursday, August 05, 2010

Back to School Supplies. A Rant.

If you have children in school, you've likely spent much of the last month or so listening to "when are we going to go school supply shopping?" You might know just how grating that question can get.  Well, we still haven't, even though it's less than three weeks until school starts and the question is posed multiple times per day.
So here's my hang up.
My child's school district is STUPID.
Well, I take that back. The people who compile the list of school supplies are collectively stupid.  I'll rant about the part where the kids have to supply basic supplies for the teachers which should be the school's responsibility later. This is about the overly specific list.

First of all, they separate out the supplies needed for basic classes, Life Studies, Spanish, and Art.  So she needs a total of 3 packages of #2 pencils, but they're listed in different places, because gods forbid someone look at their supplies list and actually see the pertinent number associated with the supply.  No, the parents have to get halfway through the supplies section only to find they have to turn around and get another package of pencils, or another spiral, because the list compiler couldn't be bothered to actually compile a list.

That's not the most irritating part.  It's the branding.
The list specifies which brand of many items to buy. She needs Post-It notes, not sticky notes.  She needs Scotch tape, not just tape.  She is supposed to have Kleenex (despite Kimberly Clarke's abysmal environmental record, why can't it say facial tissue, preferably with recycled content?)  She's suposed to bring Expo Dry-Erase markers. you know, because they couldn't have saed some ink and left off the brand.

I'll give them a pass on the TI-30XIIS Calculator, because when teaching a classroom to use a calculator there's something to be said for everyone having access to the same functions, but just so we're on the same page, I'm going out of my way this year to not buy the brands specified on the list. I absolutely will not do it.   It's bad enough that her scissors must measure 5", whereas last year they were to measure 5 1/4", bad enough that her sprials must be 70ct, wide ruled, non-perforated.  I will not be mindlessly buying branded materials for no reason other than the fact that some employees of the school district are stupid enough to advertise without compensation.

Let's be real.  If I tell someone I love a brand, I tell them why.  Sometimes I only know about it because I'm reviewing it. Sometimes I write reviews of things that I love because they've been truly helpful for me or because I am excited bout them, but those are recommendations.  I might tell you that I LOVE writing with certain pens but can't stand the crappy Bic pens which never seem to work more than a week out of the box. Hey, I usually buy Uniball when I have a choice.  I personally like to let people know what has worked for me and highlight products made by people whom I want to see succeed because I like who they are, what they make, and what they stand for.  However, when I recommend a product, I'm not doing so with the weight of the school district behind me and the threat of your children having their homework considered late until you procure the items I recommend. This is just laziness and completely uncompensated advertising and it irritates me to no end.

So dear school- unless the company is sponsoring your school year, stop telling me to buy their brand.   Further, stop begging me for money when you're dumb enough to do free advertising for major corporations who already have vast name recognition in the market when you could be hitting them up for sponsorship instead.  "If everyone donates just $30 per student" actually makes a difference in my grocery budget, so learn how to do advertising, or stop it all together.
And as for the overly restrictive (and sometimes nearly impossible to find) supplies?  She's going to have something similar, but if the wide ruled spirals cost more than the college ruled? Guess who's going to be rocking college ruled?  My kid.  If you want to cry about it you can wipe your tears in some ethically manufactured facial tissue, because my daughter won't be bringing you any Kleenex.

Oh, and supply your teaching staff with reasonable supplies.  There's no reason the kids should have to supply the dry erase markers and red pens for the whole school.

7 reflections:

Nikki said...

I think it's just a habit that "we" sometimes do - interchange brand names for the 'generic' term. I ALWAYS call sticky notes "post-its" regardless and I always call facial tissues "Kleenex". (Do you have a Kleenex?) Just like "Coke" is sometimes used as a 'generic' for cola.

I agree with the list compilations- I've encountered that in school FROM THE SAME TEACHER - where they list "general" supplies and then list specific supplies for a project which backtracks you back to where you started! GRR!!

If the state/school system wouldn't waste money on other things, they might have money for school supplies instead of expecting the kids to supply them - but I know plenty of teachers who buy their own supplies for the classroom.

Nelle said...

3 packages of #2 pencils? That's a lot of pencils- that's like 1 pencil per week. What kid needs that many pencils? That's just ridiculous.

I agree with previous poster- I say Post its and Kleenex when I mean sticky notes and facial tissue.

Slee said...

I suppose I say tissues and sticky notes, but I prefer to NOT use branded speech whenever possible. As a kid I never wanted designer jeans because I felt that if I had to be advertising for whichever company had it's logo on my back side, I shouldn't have to pay for it, they should have to pay me. lol

As per teachers buying their own supplies, yes, I'm very familiar with that. I've been there and done that quite a bit myself, but again, I'm sure there are better ways to cost shift than to the parents.

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Penny @ said...

Thank you for this post!!! I just finished school shopping the other day and I'm glad to know that my kids will not be the only ones without the name brand crap the school wanted me to buy!!! We also had to buy dry erase markers... lol. Stupid, I'm sure it'll just get handed over to the teacher and my daughter will never actually use it herself.

Ivy said...

I saw somewhere else recently that a lot of schools list branded supplies because they can get money for classroom supplies from the company if they specify that on their list. They don't actually care, but given how much teachers pay out of pocket for things, I can see how they'd be drawn to do that, just to get the extra help.

It's still horrible that they have too, though.

Slee said...

If they're getting kickbacks, I'm cool with that, but put a notice at the bottom of the page that brands listed are compensating the school for inclusion. Disclosure and transparency are good things.