If you're not already familiar, the Trapper Keeper is a large plastic binder that holds folders. What differentiates it from the ordinary binder, with its clunky triangular fold and creepy militant design, is in the name: it is built to trap and keep papers from falling out. It does this by adding an enclosure to one side of the binder, in the form of a wraparound flap that fastens to the topside surface with a Velcro clasp. This not only closes off one space for papers to move around, but it tightens the binder and keeps the papers close together, preventing them from getting loose, which makes it easier for them to fall out. Additionally, though Trapper Keepers did have clear plastic encasing, they didn't have the vacuum-sealed, single-color plastic wrap of standard binders. In fact, the Trapper Keeper had a "Designer Series," which featured a number of fairly cheesy and awesome computer-generated pieces of abstract art. A lot of the designs haven't aged that well, but as recent anachronisms they are hilarious, haunting, and absorbing.
There wasn't much sweet talk this time.
When he spoke to the City Club a year ago, Juan Rangel cheerfully explained that his organization, UNO, the biggest charter school operator in the state, aims to help Hispanics improve themselves through hard work, assimilation, education, and political organizing, just like the Irish and Polish before them. He was received with rousing applause.
But when he appeared before the professional group again on Wednesday, it was to ask for their support in a war with "totally irresponsible and reckless" teachers unions.
He won rousing applause again.
Obviously, I graduated from the college life a few years too early—that monthlong European backpacking trip should’ve been extended by at least three years—and never got to enjoy the textbook reform spearheaded by Illinois senator Dick Durbin, one of the top-ranking democrats in the U.S. Senate. Passed in 2008, one piece of the Higher Education Opportunity Act, in so many words, prevents students from dropping their entire two-week Whole Foods paycheck on texts that they’re likely to spend more time falling asleep in than reading over a given semester. Check out the act’s two best bullets below:
And so, I go shopping for school supplies and fill out the paperwork to get an on-campus parking pass. I consider fixing up my childhood bedroom so as to minimize my weekday commute, but thankfully I never make it home in the dream. I always go straight from the errands to the school, where I find myself in the middle of a free period, pacing mostly empty halls and anticipating my return to adult life.
But hey, it's not all grim. For some of us, the thought of going back to school is a sweet one, whether it's playing parking-lot football during recess, drinking apple juice, reading great books, beefing up on history, or solving math problems—well, maybe not that last one. Yet school itself or the time of the year when one goes back to school can have sweet memories for some. Or it's the subject of an unending nightmare, one in which you're panicking that you missed the final exam, that you have your entire life. One or the other.
With the teachers' union (for the moment) deciding not to go on strike, and since it's just that time of the year, this week's Variations on a Theme is a schooltime edition. All week long, check back here for writing about going back to school, whatever that happens to entail.
And in case you missed it, check out Squirrels Week, last week's Variations on a Theme.