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Umm... - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
Okay, I admit that I read everything with a jaundiced eye, which is one of the reasons I tend to read news at sites that flatly declare their bias--it makes sorting it out easier. But sometimes, there will be a statement that I find too flat-out unbelievable to assume is anything but a bald-faced lie, not even a creative interpretation with a political bent. Today's comes from John Boortz at townhall.com, who claims that on the first day of school,
The students are instructed to bring all of their precious school supplies – their property -- to the front of the classroom and put them into a huge box. These supplies no longer belong to them. They are now community property … they belong to all of the class. The teacher, representing the government, will from that point on assume the responsibility of distributing the supplies to the students as they are needed.

My instincts--every bit of my human mind--say that this is a flat lie designed to convince parents not to send their children to public schools (not that there aren't some darned good reasons to make that choice). "They'll take your property away and redistribute it!" It's simply inconceivable to me that such a thing would happen, that such absolutely blatant unfairness would go on with actual property that could be traced.

But I've been out of school for awhile, and before I simply roll my eyes and say, "Yeah, right, sure," I thought I'd ask people on my f-list who've had some exposure to schools: has anyone actually experienced a process that might look like this, even allowing for the inevitable exaggeration? (Eg, the teacher has a holding bin that the kids put their things into? I could buy that as a possible source of this kind of urban legend, though obviously it's been hyped up for the scare factor.)

I feel a bit...: curious curious

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wm_law2003 From: wm_law2003 Date: August 9th, 2004 10:50 am (UTC) (Link)
I went to public elementary schools and both my parents have taught in public schools (with my Mom still teaching) and NOTHING like that ever happened. The kids keep their school supplies in their desks, in their little boxes. There are community crayons, markers, paper, scissors, but these are either provided by the school, the teacher, or forgetful students from years past.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: August 9th, 2004 10:54 am (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, that was my public school experience as well. I don't think I'm so old that school would be totally alien to me! I have my problems with public schools, but this is just too far over the top to even come close to being believed.
sociofemme From: sociofemme Date: August 9th, 2004 10:55 am (UTC) (Link)
He could be referring to the fact that some items on a school list are actually designated 'community property': students are asked to bring a few things like tissues that are for the classroom, not for them.

And it's not inconceivable that this process that he describes is more common in a classroom (or a community) that has few resources; the teacher would be responsible for making sure, for instance, that the three notebooks that each student brings aren't wasted or lost. Not to mention, it's a fairly decent response in a classroom where a student has no resources for school supplies and there's no budget to help him or her out. Having read Jonathan Kozol's exposes of urban public schools and been appalled at the state of them, I'd agree that some kind of community pooling of resources is the only way some students will have any chance of success.
wm_law2003 From: wm_law2003 Date: August 9th, 2004 11:01 am (UTC) (Link)
My dad taught in an urban school for over 30 years and if there were students who couldn't afford notebooks or pencils, he or she would use what the government provided or what was donated through community programs (Hampton Roads VA, for example, has a project run where people can donate school supplies to needy children). I've never heard of any school, even the ones we have in Camden, requiring students to buy supplies and then doing what the author described. While it may happen, this author's tale is the first I've ever heard of it.
natgel From: natgel Date: August 9th, 2004 11:02 am (UTC) (Link)
God no.
angua9 From: angua9 Date: August 9th, 2004 11:04 am (UTC) (Link)
Hmmmm. In my kids' school, they all buy the exact same school supply package, put together by the PTA. In the first grade, the teacher has them turn them all in to her, and she stores them and doles them out as needed, rather than expecting the children to keep track of supplies they might not use for months. There is no talk of "community property," but I'm sure she doesn't keep track of exactly which blue notebook or box of paints came from which student, since they're all identical.

All the other grades do the normal thing, and the kids keep track of their own stuff.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: August 9th, 2004 11:12 am (UTC) (Link)
Maybe something like that could be the root of it. If you squint and maybe stand on your head, it might resemble the scenario...
pauraque From: pauraque Date: August 9th, 2004 11:05 am (UTC) (Link)
As Sociofemme was saying, this may be a case of selective information. I've certainly been in art classes where you were asked to bring in stuff that was meant for everyone to share, but it's not as though it was a *surprise* -- they didn't take anything you hadn't brought specifically for the class, knowing it would be redistributed.

I'm a bit puzzled by your reaction. Why is it unfair? If anything, the idea appears to be to level the playing field.
fiatincantatum From: fiatincantatum Date: August 9th, 2004 11:28 am (UTC) (Link)
How on earth could it possibly NOT be unfair to steal school supplies bought and paid for by the childrens' families and give them to other people?
liwy From: liwy Date: August 9th, 2004 11:11 am (UTC) (Link)
Sometimes yes, but usually no. I'm really digging deep in my memory, but usually when I recall it occurring it's the exception.
cheshyre From: cheshyre Date: August 9th, 2004 11:12 am (UTC) (Link)
Never happened when I went to public schools (and I'm your age), but I have read of that kind of thing from the posters on misc.kids.moderated. It's basically one of the ways public schools have been trying to cope with being underfunded. Let me see if I can find some of the threads.

(actually, given the dates, they may be offshoots of the same thread, but I think it gets across the general idea)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: August 9th, 2004 11:20 am (UTC) (Link)
Yikes, that does look like it's actually being done (the scissors conversation is particularly disturbing).
akilika From: akilika Date: August 9th, 2004 11:17 am (UTC) (Link)
Only thing I've run into was that pencils people leave on the floor and et cetera are taken and put into a jar; people who don't have a pencil can take from that. But I can't remember back to elementary school or anything.
hughroe From: hughroe Date: August 9th, 2004 11:25 am (UTC) (Link)
Not in every district, not in every school, but dollars to donuts, there are classes out there that do such things.
jiminyc From: jiminyc Date: August 9th, 2004 11:32 am (UTC) (Link)
My kids have been in the NC public school system for over a decade and I've never seen anything like that. The only thing that comes close is that every child (at the elementary level) is usually asked to bring in a box of Kleenex every year and those are pretty much scattered through the class as community property. But no, when our kids go in with school supplies, they get to keep those for themselves.
mrs_who From: mrs_who Date: August 9th, 2004 12:16 pm (UTC) (Link)

Just out of curiousity...

I googled communal and "school supplies" and found that several kindergartens seem to be doing this.





If you googled it too, you have already seen that there are also several links to the "students of the world unite" article.

Perhaps I'm extreme in this, but my children would prefer to use the particular scissors or glue stick they, themselves, bought. (Well, all right "picked out.") One of the sites stated, "Place all supplies in a plastic grocery bag. Write your child's name on the bag only! All supplies are communal. We ask that you do not label individual items with the child's name as it causes confusion for the children."

Personally, it would cause confusion to force too much communality in our little family. (And we're actually quite nice about sharing in general!) :) I find it infinitely easier to have a green dish & cup for the one and a blue dish & cup for the other. Each has his own pencil boxes (including ME and don't even TRY to take one of my pens, you lot! Get a cheap one from the drawer.) One gets the mail on Mondays and Wednesdays, another gets the mail on Tuesdays and Saturdays, etc. I might be showing my overzealous organizational needs, but I think it's kinder on the children to have them responsible for their own items. What happens when the communal items are "lost" or broken? Then all the kids suffer -- not just the one who lost or broke it. Silly, but it's about liberties. Kids have the right to their own property. Check that. Kids *should* have the right to their own property, whether in school or out of school. It seems to me that we solved the whole communal property thing in Plymouth about 350-odd years ago, didn't we?

Then again, we're home educators. So...
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: August 9th, 2004 12:21 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Just out of curiousity...

My faith in mankind is shaken.

If I were a parent and got that note, I would label not only the bag and the packet of pencils, but every damned sheet of paper. If I didn't quit my job and homeschool immediately.
leeflower From: leeflower Date: August 9th, 2004 12:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
not only no, but no. Just... no.

I was in public schools my entire gradeschool and highschool carreer. The closest it ever gets to this is the canned food drives that students are encouraged (read: not required) to participate in around thanksgiving, and the food is not then redestributed about the class.

It's true that sometimes in art class, teachers would do things like ask kids to bring in old magazines and collect those to be used for art supplies, but that's a far cry from taking someone's calculator or scizzors. It'd be one thing if all the supplies were identical, but if I spent my hard-earned five dollars of saved-up spending money to pay my mom the difference between the plastic compass and the nice metal engineer's compass (which I did), you'd have to pry it from my cold, dead fingers to get it into the 'communal' pot. I'm a socialist, and even I'm appaled at the concept.

The only thing my teachers ever did to try to enforce fairness in supply distribution was to demand that people not buy extravegantly more than they need-- ie in third grade, if someone were to bring in a TI-83+ calculator, they'd be told to take it home and replace it with a grocery store one, because the TI-83 would serve the student no purpose but incurring the envy of other students. Even then, however, their parents would be given an opportunity to explain why their student did indeed need the fancier calculator to excell in his or her studies.

It suprises me that any writer would be so condescending as to think his readers would be stupid enough to fall for that kind of BS, honestly. He must not think very highly of his audience at all.

Moreover, just because kids go to public school doesn't mean their parents are stupid, and at least one such parent would be bound to raise an objection-- with every legal backing to do so. There's nothing unclear about "no person shall... be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law" and "nor shall private property be taken for public use; without just compensation."
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: August 9th, 2004 12:29 pm (UTC) (Link)
It suprises me that any writer would be so condescending as to think his readers would be stupid enough to fall for that kind of BS, honestly. He must not think very highly of his audience at all.

Yeah. In all the discussion of fairness of policy and all that, I'm losing sight of the fact that I was completely offended by the fact that he thought I'd just buy that. I mean, please. If you're going to make an accusation that inflammatory, you link it to proofs and show exactly where it's happening. Name names.
melyanna From: melyanna Date: August 9th, 2004 12:35 pm (UTC) (Link)
I can kind of, almost understand this kind of thing when you're talking about preliterate kids. If the teacher's keeping the glue sticks in a basket and has one of the children handing them out to the class, it's easier if things don't have names on them, especially if not all the children are reading. But once they're reading, there's no excuse for keeping up the communal thing.

Of course, the problem with that is that by using communal glue sticks, you're not exposing the kids to seeing the other children's names. My mom's preschool class is covered with words — everything in the room has a label on it with a picture of the item and its name. Parents ask all the time why the labels all have words on them too when none of the children are reading. After Mom gives them The Look, she tells them that you can't expect children to learn to read if they're not exposed to words. I think the same holds true here.
affabletoaster From: affabletoaster Date: August 9th, 2004 12:58 pm (UTC) (Link)
If it's dependent on classwide literacy, they ought to be using communal supplies well into high school. ;)
lannamichaels From: lannamichaels Date: August 9th, 2004 12:47 pm (UTC) (Link)
There was something like it when I was in elementary school, but I went to private school where there was never more than 18 people in my class.

But I know I've seen that blurb somewhere. Wish I could remember where.
lannamichaels From: lannamichaels Date: August 9th, 2004 12:55 pm (UTC) (Link)
Um. Let me say that better. In my class, there were 18 people (the number fluctuated by year) that I knew very well, knew their families, and had been to most of their houses. When things were for everyone, the kid herself would call it ownerless and let anyone grab it. There were some supplies that were universally understood to belong to everyone. For example, in fifth grade we all had binders but only two of us had hole punchers. It was understood that anyone could go into our desks and take the puncher. But I brought it home at the end of the year, and if you used it, you were expected to clean it out and put it back. This also applied to pencil sharpeners and extra lead for mechanical pencils. That kind of thing.

Even into high school we kept this kind of mentality. My locker had plastic utensils, tape, and glue, because the school didn't provide them and we often needed them for class. Even teachers would borrow sometimes, and I kept replentishing the supply. No one ever paid me back or offered to buy me a new thing of glue when mine ran out. But it was something I did, because if I didn't do it, the school wouldn't have it.
chienar From: chienar Date: August 9th, 2004 12:56 pm (UTC) (Link)

school supplies

I think that the writer from whom Fern took her statement, worded it to make it come off as inflammatory. He wanted to start a debate.

I don't remember there being such huge supply lists when I was a kid, but I have seen some doosies that the girls at work have shown me from their kids.

Because of this, I can't say that there are not places where such things happen.

I'll tell you, as I've often told the man in my life, that I so want to move before our son starts school. The schools in Michigan horrify me, compared to what I grew up with in WNY.

Now -that- is scary.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: August 9th, 2004 01:59 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: school supplies

The schools in Michigan horrify me, compared to what I grew up with in WNY.

Now -that- is scary.

:is momentarily dumbfounded at the notion:

:remembers living in New Mexico and thinking, Lord, get me back to Perry:

I think I mostly want to go back in time. It was bad in the 80s; it's worse now.
maidenjedi From: maidenjedi Date: August 9th, 2004 01:02 pm (UTC) (Link)
It happened in my early (read: 9th/10th grade) English classes. We had to turn over everything that we were asked to bring - dry erase markers, folders, and other such items - but were allowed to keep our notebooks and pens/pencils.

My little brother had a more interesting experience, more like what Boortz describes, in late elementary and throughout middle school. Markers, construction paper, dry erase markers, crayons, glue, scissors, and once even plain notebook paper all made it into a bin at the front of the classroom.

I don't think this is cause to pull children from public schools, but it is cause for concern in the sense that much of what is pooled are things that many poorer children couldn't afford. Still other things are basic supplies that teachers should have provided by the school or school district, not by parents. Schools that are severely underfunded need help, and that's what I believe is the root problem here.
vytresna From: vytresna Date: August 9th, 2004 01:41 pm (UTC) (Link)
Well, it did happen to me, but that was in a charter school whose mission was to encourage general touchy-feely behavior. But there does seem to be widespread evidence of such occurences - that's not good.

And it's Neal Boortz. I'm a regular on his website.
likeafox From: likeafox Date: August 9th, 2004 01:42 pm (UTC) (Link)
Hmm... in Kindergarten we would bring in school supplies and put our paints in the pain bin, glue in the glue bin, etc. (We kept our pens and markers, however, as those are easy to carry around in a pencil box.) I think it was optional whether you put your name on it or not. Kids just grabbed one when you needed it, not really worrying about whose it was.

I remember being a little upset I wasn't allowed to carry my brand new watercolors around with me, but in the end it was a lot better because it didn't take forever to get everyone the supplies they needed and it just wasn't reasonable to have 20 or so five-year-olds keep track of all their school supplies for the whole year.

Of course, at the end of the year everyone was able to take what they had brought home. (If you didn't put your name on it at the beginning of the year you just took one of the unnamed ones. I didn't, and I remember being very exited that I got to take home a barely used watercolor set!)

Once kids got to the point where Elmers glue stopped being on the supply list :P and we were able to keep track of all our stuff ourselves (well, theoretically. I still tend to misplace things an awful lot :P) we didn't do the community bins anymore.

I really think the author of the column was just blowing things out of proportion. Sure, some schools might get a bit carried away with the "community supplies" idea, but from my experience most things like that aren't unreasonable, they just make it easier when working with young kids and a lot of almost identical glue sticks.
silverhill From: silverhill Date: August 9th, 2004 01:45 pm (UTC) (Link)
It happened to me when I was in elementary school.

We didn't have to give up everything. Things we used every day (such as pencils and pencil boxes) we were allowed to keep in our desks.

We had a list of school supplies we were supposed to get. On the first day of school we had to turn some of those things in to the teacher. Usually it was glue/paste, kleenex, crayons/colored pencils and scissors.

It's something I hadn't thought about in a long time (and I certainly never thought of it having political implications), but it did always annoy me when I was a kid. Giving up my scissors especially bugged me because I am left handed and most of the left-handed scissors were really crappy. I wanted the nice left-handed scissors I brought. But I didn't always get them -- and sometimes I had to use right-handed scissors.
ladylisse From: ladylisse Date: August 9th, 2004 01:52 pm (UTC) (Link)
*blink* We kept everything in our desks. There were some things, like glue sticks, that got labeled and passed in to the teacher, but those were still our glue sticks and I think the confiscation was more to stop glue stick fights than anything else. Of course, I went to the school that was like a textbook example of how not to do things, so hey.

We did have to buy communal things like tissues, but I've never heard of anything like you quoted. Just...bwa?
victorialupin From: victorialupin Date: August 9th, 2004 02:54 pm (UTC) (Link)
Glue stick fights? LOL!

I can honestly say that I've never seen that at any of my schools. But, my classes have always tended to go the extremes- we didn't bother with glue sticks, we'd just wait for the teachers to leave the classroom for a moment to get something, and we'd grab the meter sticks and start fake lightsaber duels. ;-)
thewhiteowl From: thewhiteowl Date: August 9th, 2004 01:57 pm (UTC) (Link)
Our school supplied notebooks right up to 16, and pencils to about 8. Of course we brought better ones ourselves, but nobody ever suggested sharing them.
manicwriter1271 From: manicwriter1271 Date: August 9th, 2004 02:12 pm (UTC) (Link)
My instincts--every bit of my human mind--say that this is a flat lie designed to convince parents not to send their children to public schools (not that there aren't some darned good reasons to make that choice). "They'll take your property away and redistribute it!" It's simply inconceivable to me that such a thing would happen, that such absolutely blatant unfairness would go on with actual property that could be traced.

Currently in my twelfth year teaching public school, and while I've always been in North Carolina, I've been in four different school systems.

I've never seen, nor heard of, anything like this. Not even close.

At my school, we do the opposite--we give kids a list of supplies that they need, and they have to go buy them. For kids whose parents can't afford the supplies (a 3-ring binder, a planner, pencils and paper), we find them a "sponsor" within the school community.

Each homeroom asks parents to, if possible, contribute certain classroom items as tissues, paper towels, hand soap, and Band-Aids--but it is by no means a requirement.

I've always considered myself pretty left-wing, but the day I have to confiscate and redistribute school supplies a la the government of Communist Russia, I'll hand in my resignation on moral and ethical grounds.
victorialupin From: victorialupin Date: August 9th, 2004 02:31 pm (UTC) (Link)
That doesn't seem very factual, IMO.

Just from a literary perspective, it's clear that the author has some bias, especially since he/she puts an emphasis on how precious the students' property is.

Anyways, I've never heard of anything like that before. The closest thing that I can think of is that during math tests, some of my teachers would collect calculators from the students who finished early, and give them to students that didn't have calculators with them. Even that didn't happen very often (only if a student had forgotten to bring one), and the calculators were always returned.

In fact, in almost every class that I've had, the students have been encouraged to put their names on everything so that they get them back after sharing.

So basically, I've never experienced anything close to what this author is describing. Actually, now that I'm in high school, we're not even encouraged to share that much; the teachers say it's our choice, and give us the freedom to decide which people we want to trust with out property.

who just realised that if she was in a classroom like that, she'd probably be a smart-mouth, and refuse to hand in her property;-)
webbapettigrew From: webbapettigrew Date: August 9th, 2004 02:57 pm (UTC) (Link)
It happens in my school. My kids have to bring a box of crayons each and either a packet of pencils, erasers, or construction paper. My school is rural and poor. We don't get the monies from the government we need because we don't have a lot of kids. Each kid in my district is about 1800 dollars to the school. So we get a year where we lose a lot and then there is no money.

I am a band teacher. My budget is $3000, grades 5-12. Three grand total. No more. That won't even buy a bari sax.

Welcome to public education. And if you think private is better, think again in many cases. What they give you in individualized attention they make up for in lack of extracurriculars, at least in my area.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: August 9th, 2004 04:22 pm (UTC) (Link)
It seems to me that it would be better to just increase taxes straight up and give the money to the school than to tease and say, "You have this money, oh, oops, no you don't."
chienar From: chienar Date: August 9th, 2004 05:13 pm (UTC) (Link)


The more I think about it, and the more I talk to the folks that -do- send their children to school in this area, and a friend of mine who homeschools her two, the more I consider homeschooling my son.

The decline of the public school systems is appalling!
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