October 26, 2018
School bans backpacks; boy protests by bringing books to school in a microwave
by Tom Clayton
We all remember those Autumn school days, right? Crisp mornings spent trudging through papery leaves, box-fresh stationery jostling in your pencil case, the sweet scent of decay permeating the air. Frosty playing fields, scratchy physical education kit. You’ve all bought a protractor for some reason, even though you won’t know how to use one for another four years. Great times!
And of course, at the centre of that school experience: your trusty backpack. Holder of mysteries; bearer of heavy textbooks; concealer of stinky sports socks. Where would we have been without it? Well, as Kaisha Langton of Lincolnshire Live reports, Spalding Grammar School has attempted to test that theory by banning backpacks on health and safety grounds – prompting many pupils to transfer their books to a plastic bag between lessons.
Now, let’s get one thing straight: in certain contexts, backpacks are pretty annoying. Public transport is the obvious example, even prompting the official Visit Britain to include backpack removal as part of their Tube etiquette guide for London. But at school, they’re more or less essential – as one former pupil of the school, Noah Leatherland, notes: “If I hadn’t had a bag to haul everything around, sixth form would have been 12 times less organised and 3000 times more miserable.”
Luckily, the ban has not crushed the spirits of Spalding’s pupils. One sixth-former, 17 year-old Jacob Ford, has fought absurdity with absurdity, embarking on an ingenious ‘silent protest’: for a whole week, he brought his books to school in increasingly bizarre vessels – including a wicker basket, part of a lawnmower, and even a microwave, which we have to assume was unplugged at the time [actual microwave not pictured]. Another pupil, Hannah Catterall, began an online protest which attracted 463 signatures.
In an accompanying 3,000-word essay, Ford also cited the expense of purchasing a new bag just weeks into the school year – and the detrimental impact of satchel-wearing on developing bodies – as further reasons for the ban to be overturned. But instead of recognising and, God forbid, having a sense of humour about Jacob’s crusade, the school promptly suspended him for two days, calling his behaviour ‘inappropriate’.
Well, as a publisher who respects anyone’s right to protest, especially if that protest is both impactful and harmless to others – we’re behind you, Jacob. Fight the power, and get those backpacks back.
Tom Clayton is publishing executive at Melville House UK.