My children have always loved back-to-school shopping. There is something about the idea of having a list of school supplies and wandering through a stationary store checking off boxes that brings them a strange combination of excitement and satisfaction.

As a writer I can identify with the love of pencils, paper and such.

So there we were scuffling through Staples searching for the perfect sized post it notes or a pencil case that was both stylish (one picked out a furry cat – rather kitschy) and functional (dividers or pockets seem key.) Then suddenly something stopped me in my tracks. I gasped, became disgusted, frustrated and angry. What could possibly create such a reaction, you ask?

A bulletproof backpack.

Never in my wildest dreams, or should I say nightmares, would I have imagined such a product. I still can’t figure out what troubles me most. The idea that such a product even exists? That a company would make such a product and profit, preying off of the understandable fears of parents? Or that there is even a potential perceived need for such a thing?

What does it say about us as a country that among post it notes and pencil cases, we find bullet proof backpacks?

Predictably sales are soaring of this product in the wake of Uvalde as they have after previous mass shootings. This is despite what some see as the questionable efficacy against certain weapons. BTW, just create a vision in your mind of product testing these.

Meanwhile, some are currently up in arms over the relief of student debt, perhaps understandably so. I remember my sense of pride when I paid off my last student loan – and think there is a fair argument to be made that we should all be responsible for paying off our own debts.

At the same time, when I was in college, it was much more affordable and interest rates more reasonable and fair. Relieving some debt is a recognition that too many people made too much money off the backs of our student’s education – either through inflated tuition costs or interest rate gauging (the latter is why I think a better policy fix might be zero or close to zero interest rate loans.)

What do bulletproof backpacks and student debt have to do with one another?

Both are symbols of a heavy burden placed on students and families when it comes to education.

Back-to-school should be a time of excitement and opportunity not fear or dread.

The psychological and financial weights placed on students of all ages shackle their possibility and promise in the very setting we ask them to soar. Add to this mix ongoing demands related to standardized testing, a rise in book banning and censorship and the unchecked dominance of technology in the classroom and we seem to be sucking the joy of learning from all parties involved.

Like so many things, there are no easy solutions. But perhaps a start would be to find ways to take the unnecessary weights, financial and otherwise, off the backs of our students instead of putting bulletproof backpacks on them under the guise of protection.

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