Where have all the scissors gone?

August 7, 2023


Maybe the coworker who keeps eating your sandwich attended a school where they had to share scissors. 

Every school supply list, for every grade, includes "scissors." Year in, year out, I had to buy new scissors for my sons. They didn't return them at the end of the year, even though they still worked just fine, so the next year, we'd have to purchase more. Somehow, when I was a little girl, I managed to go from 1st  through 5th grade with the same pair of scissors, adding the advanced, highly coveted, pointy-tip pair around second grade. 

I kept my scissors and other supplies in a school box. The box was, at first, predictable, with images of globes, books, and rulers; then, one summer, my inner decoupage queen emerged, and I covered a cigar box with pictures of flowers, puppies, bicycles, and popsicles, cut from my mother's Better Homes and Gardens, by using . . . my scissors. 

Of course, I was a neat and tidy little girl, but even the Pig Pen boys took care of their school supplies. If they didn't, they wouldn't have any when it came time to "create." When we ran out of something, our parents would run to Eckerd’s Drugstore and get more.  

We were responsible for our own needs. Our parents took care of us. 

Today's students take their scissors and put them, along with their other supplies, in a communal heap for everyone to share. 

Is this done out of fairness for those who don't have the means to purchase supplies? Is it done out of convenience? When I asked, the teacher usually said, "It's just easier."

Well, by all means, let's substitute a valuable life lesson in responsibility for ease and convenience.

Somewhere along the way, we elevated 100% of teachers to sainthood. As a former teacher and coming from a family of teachers, I can tell you, there are always a few who need to find another line of work — and it's not because they are old. If you want an easy, carefree, fun job, don’t become a teacher. It’s hard work, and perhaps holding all students responsible for their own supplies takes extra time, but it teaches great lessons. 

Please reread those last few sentences - yes, there are many teachers who want to teach responsibility and self-reliance, and do a great job of it every day, yet the school supply issue is a great way to teach those things, and I think it's an area we need to reexamine for a wonderful life lesson. Hooray for those teachers who already do this. 

I taught in a school of extremely low-income families and can tell you, while many couldn't afford the "extras" in life, their children always had what they needed. The little one's wardrobes may not have been expensive, but they were for the most part, clean as a whistle and cute as a button. 

Our wise principal was adamant about parental responsibility. By asking parents to plant flowers at the school entrance, send snacks, or make costumes, it drew the parents into the educational process and made them pay attention to what was going on in their child's life. That's the exact reason parents should be responsible for their child's individual school supplies. 

Years later, in the affluent area where my sons attended public school, the supply list was a mile long, yet everyone in the class was expected to share.

 All supplies brought to the classroom were dropped into large bins. Crayons here — pencils here — "But mom!" my son whispered, "I want to keep the dinosaur folder for MYSELF!" I saw his point because he had been excited when we bought it and now had to toss it into the box for even-handed distribution.  

Individualism and personal responsibility take another hit. 

Once again, it isn't about being able to afford the supplies because many organizations donate supplies to those in need. But once the coveted crayons and highlighters land in the hands of the children, shouldn't they take ownership of the doo-dads? Shouldn't they keep up with their own scissors and glue?

My biggest question is, where do all the scissors go at the end of every year? 20 pair per class, 50 classrooms, 30 schools . . . that’s a landfill. They hold up fine to repeated use, so do you think the teachers are secretly hording them? Could there be a closet next to the cafeteria that's overflowing with a towering pile of shiny silver scissors? Is Fiskar's Scissors company the catalyst behind the demand for new scissors every year? Curious minds want to know.  

The concept of "shared supplies" is one more example of non-book learning lessons stripped away from parents and students. "Take care of everyone" ends up "taking care of no one." 

It seems trivial to most adults, but when these kiddies grow up to work in your office and walk in and take the supplies out of your desk then eat your sandwich, you’ll wish they’d been taught about personal responsibility. 

This big lesson can begin with individual scissors. A decoupaged cigar box is an added bonus.  

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