Let's recap on how needs differ from wants. Needs are basic things we need to survive, like a good education. Wants are something we'd like to have but are mainly unnecessary, like skateboards with cool designs that people ride to school.
School supplies, for instance, are needs. We'd fail if we didn't use pencils and paper to write written history tests. Neither do we forget to use compasses for geometry assignments. But when was the last time they became wants - enhanced versions of needs that make school life fun and exciting but aren't needed in the first place?
Take the 90's, for instance. Colorful school supply lines by Lisa Frank were the craze. Girls would write on pink paper to make assignments more interesting. In the early 2000's gel pens were popular. Writing with colored ink besides the conventional dark blue and black made homework interesting.
What the crazes of the past had in common were schools playing God on students and banning them from classes.
Don't just blame illegible writing (from gel pens) or visual classroom distractions. Kids in low-income families or sturdy-income ones who are very frugal and very focused on needs (college tuition, utility and gasoline bills, groceries, and insurance) are enticed by what their richer peers have. They badger peers with them (some having huge troves) to borrow them or even worse.
We all know we can't have everything we want, so what should schools do about them? They hand out school supply lists to parents or display them in stores when parents buy the supplies. Most of them enforce uniform dress codes or similar to them (Collared shirts in any solid color with khaki, navy, or black solid-colored bottoms hemmed to the knees come to mind.) They ensure uniformity and reduce jealousy.
But having to set standards is really not enough. I believe that schools should not be afraid to create trends that are free and inclusive to everyone, regardless of social status. While it isn't fair for a kid who is living in a motel thanks to foreclosure to feel bad about every one of her peers having really cool markers, it is fair a classroom to incorporate singing in the curriculum.
As for parents with rein on spending, keep up the good work telling kids that while their peers have cool stuff to bring/wear to school they have to stick with basics. I wish all parents were like you.
What do you think?
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