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Guest column

Where is my 'back to school' laptop?

September 07, 2011 - By Bill Kalmar

Special to The Review

Back when my generation was preparing to return to school, back in the Dark Ages, we only needed a couple of items on the first day. Our list consisted of a Duo-tang folder, a pencil case, a #2 lead pencil, and maybe a protractor. Other than that, the schools provided the necessary materials for us to matriculate. And if we took our lunch, it was in a brown paper bag. Or maybe we had a Lone Ranger or Green Lantern metal lunch box with a thermos. Unfortunately, back then the thermos bottle was glass lined so we went through a number of bottles during the year if it was dropped. And of course, any books we might have taken home at day end, were secured with a rope or belt.

Today it is a whole different situation, one that will impact every parent and student in the Lake Orion district. And Lake Orion is not alone in the expenses parents will encounter this September when their offspring register for the coming school year. Other districts have similar expenses. In fact some schools in California charge a $2,000 registration fee for sports! But one needs to look no further than the "back to school" ads in the various papers to determine that it takes more than a pencil case and protractor to make it through the school day!

First of all, whether it is grade school or high school, many students need a laptop computer. Seems homework assignments are prepared and forwarded to students on their laptops. And of course, homework assignments are then sent to the teachers in the same fashion. With the average cost of a laptop computer coming in around $700, it almost equals the cost of a four year education at a private high school back in my day!

But the list only begins with a laptop. Students also need flash drives to secure and transfer information. And instead of a rope or belt to band together their books, we now have personalized backpacks some resembling the type of equipment that adventurer Bear Grylls would require on one of his many treks through the jungle!

Furthermore, how can we expect our students to walk between classes without a pair of earphones linked to their iPod or MP3 player? And not just ordinary earphones but why not some Bose Quiet Comfort Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones at a cost of $300!

Brown paper bags are gauche! As such, why not opt for a designer insulated lunch bag as featured on Amazon for $135? It includes a thermos and silverware and not a glass lined thermos! Shouldn't our children have the correct accoutrements and utensils when they dine on peanut butter and jelly?

Then let's not overlook these items: Elmer's glue, combination lock, dictionary, thesaurus, blunt tipped scissors, calculator, crayons, several #2 lead pencils, a hand sanitizer, a disinfectant, maybe a financial calculator, some Kleenex and toilet tissue. Not only do we as parents need to supply our offspring with school supplies, we now have to supply the school with cleaning supplies! Teachers are also coming to school with extra paper and other supplies which are not supplied by or are in short supply from the school district. So the whole system is out of kilter

Teachers not only have to prepare lesson plans but also have to prepare shopping lists for items that should be supplied by the district! A sad commentary! The answer in my mind is to do a full court press on education and that means properly funding the schools so parents and teachers don't have to outlay large sums of money before school even commences. Teachers should teach and parents should encourage and coach. Neither should be hampered by being supply agents for the school!

Where you ask do we get the money to do so? From the millions and billions of dollars we send to foreign countries every year for which we receive little if any thanks. It's time we refocus on our own country but with the clowns representing us in Washington we have little chance of succeeding! It is a farce in the making and, having said that, permit me to close with a verse from the Broadway play "A Little Night Music" that symbolizes what is going on in our nation's capital and why our schools are in such disarray

"Don't you love farce? My fault I fear. I thought that you'd want I want. Sorry my dear. But where are the clowns. Quick send in the clowns. Don't bother they're here!"

So if parents are looking for a clown to entertain their child and his or her friends at a birthday party, contact your Congressman in Washington! Maybe I should send my Congressman his own metal lunch box emblazoned with the new government mascot Bozo the Clown! Larry Harmon, the original Bozo might have died, but his spirit still lives in Washington in many of the politicians!

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