School; Not what it once was

Shopping for school supplies with my 11-year-old daughter is a lot like operating a wood chipper after you’ve had one-too-many drinks: It sounds like a good idea — possibly even fun — at the time, but there’s a pretty good chance someone is going to lose a limb.OK, so maybe that’s overstating things, but not by much.This year’s purchasing affair went smoothly at first, with the supplies and clothing purchased with a minimal number of piercing gazes, dirty looks and insulting comments quietly mumbled under one’s breath. Smooth, that is, until it came time to purchase a backpack.We began our search locally, but I quickly realized we weren’t going to find the bag — or the fashion statement — my daughter was looking for. So, we decided to head off to Midland in an effort to broaden the search.After nearly an hour of arguing about whether or not Hobby Lobby sold backpacks — an argument that ended 10 feet in the store’s entrance, much to my child’s dismay — we landed at Academy Sporting Goods, one of my favorite places to shop.Now, to say Academy has a selection of backpacks would be an understatement. With aisle after aisle of backpacks, messenger bags and every other kind of book bag, I felt pretty sure we had come to the end of our shopping journey.Granted, it took a couple of hours — and plenty of arguing concerning the price and overall reliability of the various bags versus their stability — but we headed back to Big Spring with what I felt like was a safe and fairly-priced choice.However, I was wrong. Not about the bag, mind you. The first day of school my daughter was quickly informed by the students and teachers that backpacks were not allowed at Big Spring Junior High School. Between the money, gasoline and time wasted on finding her new bag, I was a bit ticked off the school district had failed to mention this fact.Needless to say, I’m a reporter. My job is to ask questions, and this ban of backpacks and other book bags brought one word to mind. Why?I doubt the answer to that question will surprise anyone. Lockers and backpacks are being done away with in many schools in an effort to keep students from bringing dangerous things — guns, knives, alcohol and drugs, just to name a few — to school.So, students at Big Spring Junior High School are forced to lug around huge three-ring binders — most of which are already bursting at the seems, and the school year just started — with them throughout the school day. And, yes, it is a sad commentary on our society’s desire to mitigate obscure, unlikely danger by eating away at the rights of the innocent.That’s right. Americans are almost always willing to trade in their civil liberties for what they see as safety. Don’t think so? Take a look at the Patriot Act. Unfortunately, that safety is merely an illusion, a fact my daughter immediately pointed out.“What makes people think kids won’t bring a gun or knife to school in their binder?” she asked me. “Sure, a gun or large knife won’t fit in these binders with all the papers and stuff in them, but I seriously doubt a kid who is bringing a gun to school is really worried if they have enough pencils or paper. Something tells me they are going to be more worried about extra ammo.”OK, she’s a bit of a comedian, but she comes by it honestly.So, if we’re going to tell kids not to bring backpacks to school because they can hide dangerous objects, what’s next? Well, it seems logical to get rid of pockets, right? And what about pencils? Once they are sharpened, they could certainly be used to stab someone. The same goes for pens. What about a compass? Scissors? Anyone?Once we’ve made the classroom completely safe, we can move on to other problem areas, like the lunch room. We’ll have to get rid of the forks, for sure, and that’s going to make eating spaghetti a real challenge.Needless to say, shop class is going to have to be cancelled altogether.And if guns are a real worry, why aren’t the nation’s colleges banning bags? In fact, the Texas Legislature, in all its vast and expansive wisdom, recently passed an amendment allowing anyone with a concealed-handgun license to carry weapons onto public university campuses and into public college buildings.Really? So, the answer isn’t keeping guns out of school, it’s that too few guns are being toted to class? What about the students who can’t aim worth a flip?In the end, I know our school officials are just trying to keep our kids safe, and, as a father I can certainly appreciate that. However, shouldn’t common sense prevail in these situations?Contact Staff Writer Thomas Jenkins at 263-7331 ext. 232 or by e-mail at