A new tool for elementary students…flatware. Gone are the days of the puckish spork, nemesis to all who have had to use it for soup, cutting meat or spearing hard vegetables. The graveyard piles of headless sporks are gone forever, or at least until June when they take inventory of the remaining flatware. Kids are creative and ever-thinking. I didn’t realize it was quite so easy to make letters of the alphabet with bent stainless steel.
The reason for the switch from the plastic spoon/fork, to stainless is born of good intentions. Real forks can be reused so waste, landfills and endangered spork populations are protected from the environmental paganism of us black hole humans. Children are learning to care about our planet if they stop long enough between bites of carrot coins to think about it, which they don’t. They just want to get out and play. Collateral good fortune is that children, who have had no experience eating with utensils in our finger food world, will know how to conduct themselves when faced with an entire place setting at some point. So that's good.
It’s time to think about other ways to help the environment by making changes in our schools. The easiet place to start would be paper consumption. The copy machine reproduces at sonic boom speed. Packets, reports, memos, flyers, spelling lists, maps, entire books, workbook pages, penmanship pages, math tests, homework, and scholarly articles clutter up mailboxes, then recycling bins throughout the school. My very favorite environmental irony is the wallpapering of posters and signs reminding us of Earth Day.
So, how to get rid of paper waste? The answer is electronics. We need to look to technology. There is nothing we can do with paper and pencil that we can’t with computers and appropriate hardware, except maybe jam them into the bottom of a backpack with a lunchbox, stuffed animal and snowpants. Stylists are pencils, pads become paper. An entire class can till work on “seatwork” but not the sheetwork. Forms ought to be on school websites to download or fill out online. The cost of textbooks is ridiculous and unnecessary. They are out of date as soon as they are published. Workbooks get used and tossed like a prom date, and the uninspiring packets we all run off and make kids complete end up who knows where after parents get to see some evidence that their kids are actually doing something.
We need to have equipment, extensive training, maintenance, and relevant ongoing instruction regarding how to use school hardware and software with children. We need equity in distribution and periodic upgrading. There is not enough staffing for even part of the demands we would have if we were really schools of the 21st century. We are stuck in the past decade on our technology timeline, at least at the elementary level. Classrooms ought to have wireless computers for at least half the students, accessible all day and not just a 45 minute sign up time. We need to have keyboards designed for little hands, so our early childhood population isn’t left on the other side of the window, watching other students become part of the present, as they sit on their miniature chairs writing with constantly breaking pencils on paper that is too thin to erase without ripping.
I’m all for helping the environment, but those who tell us to widen margins, use the backs of paper, make art pieces out of liter bottles and mud are missing the bigger picture. We need to educate the community as to what could be possible with reliable technology in our schools. This isn’t a bake sale cause, or a one shot grant target. Thousands of penny wars and milk bottle caps won’t do it. It will take the kind of effort and money that is going into other Shorewood projects meant to beautify, update and impress. I applaud everyone who has worked to advance technology in our schools. Committees have tried for years to pull the dead technology horse of the past into this century. I don't know how you keep up the fight, but admire your commitment. How do you keep from screaming and pounding tabletops? It must be extremely and continuously frustrating.
Maybe bending some flatware would help.