Monday, August 24, 2015

 

Drugs, Guns, and Trapper Keepers


Did you know that many K-12 districts actually ban Trapper Keepers?

As a card-carrying Gen X’er, the phrase “Trapper Keeper” immediately strikes a chord.  Trapper Keepers still exist, but in the early 80’s, they were the thing.  Trappers are folders with vertical pockets, so the papers you store in them don’t fall out when you’re carrying them.  Trapper Keepers are binders that hold Trappers.  In their heyday, Trapper Keepers were everywhere, and it’s easy to see why: they combined a practical solution to a real problem with cool (for the time) pictures and the great smell of PVC.

Okay, that last one isn’t ideal.  It was the 80’s.  

I hadn’t thought about them since probably the Reagan administration, but last week The Boy attended a meeting for the marching band at his new school and reported back that he had to get a shoulder strap to hold his sheet music binder while he marched.  I had an immediate vision of sheet music falling out, and suggested a Trapper Keeper.  No sooner had I congratulated myself on long-term memory did The Wife mention that they’re banned by name.  I did a little Googling, and found that they’re banned in a lot of places.

That had never occurred to me.

Yes, schools are stricter about certain things than they used to be, but this one threw me.  First peanut butter, now this.  There had to be a reason.

Alertly, I forgot about it for several days.  Then, on a whim, I asked folks on Twitter why they thought Trapper Keepers merited specific mention on “forbidden” lists, alongside weapons and toxins.  Three theories emerged: status competition, he sound of velcro, and size.

To which I say, phooey.

The status competition part may once have been true, I guess, but in the age of iphones, fitbits, smartwatches, and Macbook Airs (Macsbook Air?  Macbooks Air?), it seems like pretty weak tea.  I’m old enough now to remember all sorts of oddball stories over the years, but I don’t recall a rash of folder-related fatalities.  I remember when we were supposed to be terrified of heavy metal, of sneakers with pumps, and of satanic daycare centers, but I don’t remember pitched battles over office supplies.  Tressie McMillan Cottom characteristically did some actual research and pointed me to this piece on the history of Trapper Keepers from Mental Floss, which has some great nostalgic photography, but doesn’t offer a satisfying explanation of the bans..

The “velcro” theory is about the ripping sound that the cover made when it was opened.  But according to the Mental Floss piece, velcro was replaced long ago by a snap.  I don’t buy it.

The ‘size’ theory makes some sense, but if you see the size of backpacks that kids carry -- replete with school-approved chromebooks -- it falls apart quickly.  Kids have to carry trombones, ipads, and textbooks with the weight of bowling balls; I really don’t think binders are the issue.

So I remain stumped.  Yes, they’re kind of cheesy and dated, but we don’t ban Camaros.  So why the ban on Trapper Keepers?

Comments:
Did you ask the school? The reason I was given when I asked was that it takes too much effort, time, space, to get things out of and put things into Trapper Keepers. My high schoolers supply lists (when did those even become a thing?) specify not only how many folders, but what kind.

 
Man, if I were I high schooler, I would never put up with such tyranny. The Man doesn't want me to have Trapper Keepers? I'd show them! I'd keep my homework SO organized they won't know what hit 'em! I be putting handouts neatly away where I could find them later all frickin' day.

Wait... Do you think that's what they WANT? So sneaky!
 
Man, if I were I high schooler, I would never put up with such tyranny. The Man doesn't want me to have Trapper Keepers? I'd show them! I'd keep my homework SO organized they won't know what hit 'em! I be putting handouts neatly away where I could find them later all frickin' day.

Wait... Do you think that's what they WANT? So sneaky!
 
When I started reading the post, I had thought, from the title, that the reason would turn out to be "kids can hide drugs in trapper keepers." But yeah, I'm stumped.
 
Wait, he has to carry full pages of sheet music as he marches? That makes no sense. What happened to drill books where you've got a picture of your set on one page and a couple bars of music above it. What are they teaching kids in marching band these days?
 
It's a holdover from the Reagan era. Surely you remember the PSAs they used to run on afternoon television: "Trapper Keepers pave the road from freedom to communism!"

The campaign would have been more effective at influencing kids if they hadn't chosen the one-two punch of Wilford Brimley and Caspar Weinberger as the pitchmen.
 
Googling turns up the a lot of mentions of another theory. Some trapper keeper-like binders are too large to fit into school desks or lockers. Rather than just banning binders over a certain size, the schools ban "trapper keepers." Several people advancing this theory say that they were given this explanation by the school. Some sites also mention that actual trapper keepers may be an appropriate size but off-brands may be larger.

I haven't personally verified any of this, but it seems like one of the more reasonable theories.
 
Trapper keepers = white privilege.

Not the cost, the attitude.
 
I did a quick check of my friends with kids. They reported that the issue was the size constraints in fitting the Trapper Keepers into lockers. So sad....
 
Despite its self-image as the "land of the free", I'm always amazed at how much social control there seems to be in America. Homeowners associations (neighbours) restricting what colours you can use. Schools restricting what kind of binders kids can have.
 
I DON'T THINK EDMUND DANTES IS OK, GUYS. HE MAY ALSO BE DAVID BROOKS

 
Glad where I go doesn't ban them. Sounds nuts to ban something so simple. Maybe I should buy & use one this season (hey why don't we call the school 'year' seasons like the sport ones? Last time I checked a year is a period of time lasting 365 or 366 days. So I call this new period the 2015/2016 academic season. ;-) ) just for kicks.
 
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