Get a book bag


I was surprised to read Misses Escobar and Befekadu’s complaint about being “forced” to carry heavy backpacks because they weren’t given two sets of textbooks — one for school and one for home. Surprised because, when I was a kid in the 1970s, I doubt any student anywhere had two sets of textbooks.

Nor were backpacks customary, not in grade school or high school. Back then, we kids used special bags to carry our books. They were called book bags.

Book bags came in all sizes, shapes, and colors. Some were simple drawstring sacks. Others were vinyl satchels with zippers and handles. Some book bags bore the school’s logo or mascot. Or you could buy a more generic book bag at Woolworth’s or an office supply store. One boy in 6th grade, an immigrant from Spain, carried his books in an adult briefcase. I remember thinking, European kids sure are formal about school.

Book bags needn’t be expensive. You can buy them new or used, in stores or on the internet. Those reusable canvas bags they sell in grocery stores — they’ll work just fine.

Childhood obesity and diabetes are on the rise. But good news: carrying a bag full of textbooks is great exercise. I carried book bags through 18 years of schooling, from 1st grade through graduate school. It’s kept me fit. Now in my 50s, I still walk to and from Vons, a mile from where I live, carrying all my groceries in bags. Never use a car.

There’s the old story about how NASA spent millions developing a pen that worked in zero gravity. When a NASA astronaut asked his Russian counterpart how they solved the problem, he replied, “We use a pencil.”

If heavy backpacks are injuring so many students’ backs, no need to wait for taxpayers to buy you expensive digital textbooks. Just carry a bag.

Thomas M. Sipos

Santa Monica