Backpacks, Kids and Us — 16 Comments

  1. Thanks for writing this, Robert.
    I think backpacks are an extremely important contributing factor to poor posture in kids. It’s happening at an earlier and earlier age. It’s like working out at the gym with really bad posture. It can make bad posture even worse.

  2. Very good, Robert, thank you. My concern from the backpack problem is that, even if parents and teachers agree that they often create poor posture, they seem not to know or understand the link between poor posture and pain, injury, and ‘mental state’ (mood, behaviour, learning ability)… It seems to be only a concern for ‘looks’ and nothing else. I am amazed how many people say ‘poor posture is bad’, but have no idea why…. The answer, 99% of the time, is “Doesn’t look good”.

  3. Robert, thanks for bringing this forward. It can’t be written of too often. I also find myself intrigued by your suggestion, final sentence of final paragraph! There’s a liveliness in the suggestion to have someone else view the photos with you. It’s relational, interactive, and opens the possibility of a conversation—even between two people who aren’t yet seeing patterns acutely. And even better than having AT student & teacher do this. Thanks!

  4. When I was a kid in elementary school we kept our books in the desk at school and only brought home what we needed. If kids are actually using all the books that fit in those packs, when would they have time to do all that texting?
    When I was a kid we went to the school nearest home. Transit was for rich kids in private schools.
    When I was in high school we kept our books in lockers and only carried what we needed for one class. Same in University.
    I suspect most those packs are full of snacks.

    • Actually a lot of the weight is books these days – although why they have to be lugged to and from school is a mystery to me.


      • The reason the kids have to carry the books to school, then around to all their classes, and then home again is that a large majority of schools no longer have lockers. And for the few that still do, they kids don’t have time to get to their lockers between classes. It is a very different school environment from the ones I grew up in, for sure.

  5. Probably the way it’s imagined that ‘solve the problem’ is going to happen is to issue all the kids tablets and have all the books become virtual ones. The school system just “biding their time” until that happens, I’m sure. The whole issue of assigning homework for younger and younger kids that require they carry books home from school just made me angry enough to home school when there was a school age kid in my household.

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  7. This is a topic I have been studying for years. It has been in the media for many years – and yet year after year, nothing is done about it. I suspect the reason is that there is actually no current solution and certainly schools in this country (UK) have no money. Nowadays, unlike when I was at school, children move from classroom to classroom. We used to stay in the classroom (apart from Science and Art) and the teachers came to us. We had our own desk and our books lived in it, or in a locker.

    When you think that a child’s spine is growing until the age of 18, you have to ask the question – what are we doing to our children’s future health? Additionally, very few scientific studies are done on children’s skeletal health. (probably no-one dares!).

    Robert, I think your comment: “Second, I think our society has some serious blind spots when it comes to childhood development” is exactly right. It is so normal, society no longer sees it.

    When I realised 6 years ago that the vast majority of young children I saw were slouching dreadfully in their strollers, I couldn’t not do something about it. So, I have designed, developed and patented a retro-fit clip on head support for a stroller, which I’m about to launch. You’ll be hearing from me! But it’s the same thing as the school bags and chairs, no-one is actually considering the consequences of what is before our eyes! Well, we’re the people who understand. It’s just a question of how to get the message across elegantly! Otherwise, no-one will listen.

    There is a great film called “Hyper Normalisation” by Adam Curtis which is really worth a watch (it’s 2 hours long!) and I think it explains just this situation.

    It shows how things that are really not ok, become “normalised” because there is no visible solution.

    This is Wikepaedia’s description of the film and I think it describes exactly what we are talking about.

    “The term “hypernormalisation” is taken from Alexei Yurchak’s 2006 book Everything was Forever, Until it was No More: The Last Soviet Generation, about the paradoxes of life in the Soviet Union during the 20 years before it collapsed.[3][4] A professor of anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley,[5] he argues that everyone knew the system was failing, but as no one could imagine any alternative to the status quo, politicians and citizens were resigned to maintaining a pretence of a functioning society.[6] Over time, this delusion became a self-fulfilling prophecy and the “fakeness” was accepted by everyone as real, an effect that Yurchak termed “hypernormalisation”.[7]

    Thanks for discussing this, it’s so important.

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