09 August 2008

School Supply Madness

C1 and C2 are starting middle school in a few weeks. The main item on their supply lists is 5-subject notebooks; they each need four of them. C2's teacher has expressed a preference for a particular brand of notebook, pictured above. We try to buy what the teachers request, but when I saw that these notebooks cost between $10-$15 apiece I was shocked. Why would she pick such an expensive item knowing that they have to have several of them? Walgreens had them "buy one, get one free" this week. Even if I had managed to get there before they sold out, that still would have been $30 on C2's notebooks alone.

One reason that I am outraged is that there is nothing that special about the notebooks. They have fabric over the spiral part, a pen loop glued to the front, and a pocket for index cards on the inside. We went with the $3 generic notebooks instead, and I'm sure they will do just fine. The girls' paper will be held together in one place, and that is the main function of a notebook.

I think that by requesting this fancy notebook, the teacher is unwittingly helping the kids set up a class structure on the first day. There are three grammar schools that feed into this middle school, so there will be a lot of kids meeting for the first time. They are at the age where they start making snap judgments about others. I bet they all went shopping for supplies with their parents and saw how much the notebooks cost. On the first day of school, those kids will be able to look around and see at a glance who could afford the "good" notebooks. I know that kids will find a way to divide themselves into the haves and have-nots, but did the teacher need to give them a push?
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