Socializing Public Schools

The oth­er day at work, I was look­ing through the var­i­ous school sup­ply lists that our sta­tion­ary depart­ment has received for back to school time. I not­ed a curi­ous lit­tle note which appeared on sev­er­al of the lists.

Under the require­ments for cer­tain class­es, there were of course the com­mon things like “Note­books (wide rule)” or “Six fold­ers with mid­dle fas­ten­ers” or “School glue.” Not much had changed from when I was in school, unsurprisingly.

What caught my eye were things sim­i­lar to, “Two box­es of #2 pen­cils (these will be col­lect­ed at the begin­ning of the year and dis­trib­uted through­out the year.”


I’m by no means an expert on, well, any­thing, but isn’t this social­ism? Isn’t this teach­ing chil­dren that a high­er author­i­ty — in this case, the schools — should be respon­si­ble for the man­age­ment of resources or prop­er­ty? Isn’t this forced redestri­b­u­tion from the haves to the have nots?

Anoth­er rea­son why we have every inten­tion to home school when we have chil­dren, as if we need­ed fur­ther cause.

7 thoughts on “Socializing Public Schools”

  1. They are only pen­cils. They prob­a­bly do it to keep the kids from sharp­en­ing the whole box at the begin­ning of the year, and break­ing them all in nick­el hock­ey by the sec­ond week of October.

  2. Bran­don: So the mes­sage is still, the civ­il author­i­ty has the right to decide what we can and can­not do with our own things.

    As you said, they are just pen­cils; does it real­ly mat­ter if they get bro­ken or used up or what­ev­er by October?

  3. Bran­don: I sup­pose that is pos­si­ble; the word­ing is ambigu­ous. How­ev­er, I’m quite famil­iar with the prac­tice of requir­ing stu­dents to each bring a box or two of facial tis­sue to class so that the whole class may use it. I assumed the same sort of thing would be being done with pencils.

    Quite frankly, I’m still sur­prised that in our age of envi­ron­men­tal con­cern, schools aren’t requir­ing kids to bring mechan­i­cal pen­cils — one of which could last many times longer than a wood­en pencil.

  4. Well if my kid does­n’t get to Har­vard because he does­n’t have pen­cils to use in Grade 2, I’d feel pret­ty badly.

    Besides, I fail to see in your post that the pen­cils were going to be re-dis­trib­uted through­out the year. Per­haps each stu­dent will have their name on their own box. (?)

  5. re: mechan­i­cal pencils

    Sure, the mechan­i­cal pen­cils would last a long time. But there are two issues there.

    Lost pen­cils.

    The pen­cil would last but I bet the kids would go through the leads at triple (or more) the rate of wood­en pencils.

    Frankly, I think you’re read­ing way too much into pencils.

  6. Senior: Per­haps I am. :P

    A lot of the graphite of wood­en pen­cils is wast­ed — through sharp­en­ing or through not using the pen­cil all the way down to the eras­er mount. I can’t help but won­der which pen­cil results in more waste.

    Still, it seems like mechan­i­cal pen­cils could be made very sus­tain­able, espe­cial­ly if the plas­tic is made from corn (as some clothes hang­ers are).

  7. There are sev­er­al pur­pos­es of expect­ing stu­dents to bring a year’s sup­ply (of what­ev­er, not just pen­cils) right from the start; here are three off the top of my head:

    1. So no stu­dent will be “left behind” because they for­got a pen­cil that day.
    2. So the teacher can iden­ti­fy stu­dents who can’t afford pen­cils and find help for them.
    3. To make dai­ly work flow with­out inter­rup­tions as every­one hunts for their stuff.

    As far as tis­sues, hav­ing the stu­dents each bring in a cou­ple box­es is more com­mu­nist (from each to each) than social­ist (paid for by the gov­ern­ment). There is, by the way, a sig­nif­i­cant gov­ern­ment inter­est in pro­vid­ing tis­sues: pre­ven­tion (to the extent pos­si­ble) of dis­ease trans­mis­sion. Gen­er­al­ly, though, teach­ers seem to pre­fer to spend their class­room bud­get (if any) on things that par­ents won’t typ­i­cal­ly sup­ply with a lit­tle prompting.

    Often, pur­chased sup­plies are thrown into a com­mon pool just because it’s so much eas­i­er for the teacher to man­age than try­ing to keep track of who owns what and medi­at­ing “he stole my pen­cil” dis­putes; even the most cap­i­tal­ist of teach­ers has to bow to practicality.

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Rick Beckman