Dad takes on poster board lobby; next glue stick magnates

“Because I Said So” column for The Commercial Appeal

March 27, 2014

Words of scholars writ large on poster boards

It seems as though all of the homework my kids have been assigned this year requires poster board.

Has anyone else noticed this? I think you have because when we arrive at school in the mornings, I see all the other kids with their own homework. It looks like an armada of tiny clipper ships, their blue, red, black, white and yellow sails billowing and blown off course.

Social studies, science, math, history — it’s all being done up in 84-point type to fill these 28-by-44-inch boards. Some recent projects have included a report on Nobel Peace Prize winner Ralph Bunche, geometric shapes and book reports. One poster, inexplicably, was about commas.

Why? To negate a teacher’s failing eyesight? To encourage kids to think outside their crayon boxes?

I bring the conspiracy theories outside of the comments section and right here to blame the poster board industrial complex. Those barons of wood pulp who eschew the standard 8½-by-11 sheet of copy paper, the college-ruled and three-hole-punched notebook pages of my youth. They’ve weaseled their way into the schools, probably at the legislative level in Nashville, to ensure that all assignments everywhere require an enormous, difficult-to-carry stock of lightweight cardboard.

It’s the controversial move over to common foam core curriculum in our public education system.

Perhaps this column should be completed and submitted to my editor on a poster board. I’ll type parts in varying fonts, print it, cut it all out and paste it on the slick side of a piece of poster. I’ll make notes on index cards and glue them on as well. I will utilize a vast array of Magic Markers.

I don’t normally do my work on poster board because I’m an adult and it would be a silly way to complete an assignment. I probably haven’t created a poster in nearly 30 years.

In an increasingly digital world, these assignments appear downright analog with their scribbled-out mistakes, torn edges and curled corners. Hasn’t everything moved to PowerPoint presentations? Aren’t they the poster boards of the future?

I don’t recall Steve Jobs, in his theatrical releases of new hardware and software, ever gesturing toward a poster he made in his dining room the night before the presentation was due. There is no iPosterboard. Is there? Jobs would have seemed a relic of the past; he would have appeared to have caught Bob Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues.”

As our world shrinks — global industries and networks a click away, communication devices held in the palm of our hand — my kids’ homework is getting larger. It’s taking up vast resources of paper, poster, glue, scissors, tape, crayons and time. It’s not a 19th century slate, but neither is it a 21st century smart board.

It is tactile, I’ll give educators that. It’s hands-on. For many of us, I think we’ll agree, it’s the parents’ hands all over it. It’s a scramble to get these projects completed and in some sort of presentable order. For some it’s hassle; for others it’s a nostalgic turn to youth when a poster was the best means to reach a lot of people about civil rights or anti-war sentiments. Now, though, it’s all math equations and Oxford commas.

OK, this rant is over. I have to run up to the Walgreen’s for more supplies if I’m going to finish this column — poster board, index cards, construction paper, glitter … don’t even get me started on the glue stick cartel.

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