Remember when blunt scissors were the big concern?

It appears that those school supply lists get longer and stranger each year. It seems like only yesterday that it was possible to go to school with only a scavenged empty cigar box, a package of 12 crayons - who knew we'd need to master Metallic Magenta in order to succeed in life? - a ream of loose leaf notebook paper and some No. 2 pencils found lying around the house, never mind that they were embossed with ads for Joe's Pawn Shop and Bail Bond Service.

But a lot has apparently changed since I was in school and the biggest concern was whether scissors were sharp or blunted. Nowadays you're not even allowed to have sharp scissors in high school, and I don't think it's out of fear that you'll be running and fall and stab yourself.

Then there's the whole sanitary aspect of going to school these days. Used to be the teachers were glad if the kids just showed up having had some semblance of a bath in the past 24 hours. Now students are required to provide their own roll of paper towels (I assume unused) and antibacterial soap. While this may cut down on the spread of childhood diseases in the short haul, could we be breeding super clean kids who may develop a resistance to antibiotics when they're older? And where's the harm in catching an occasional cold and having to stay home in bed and watch TV all day while your classmates try and figure out whether to color their hand-print turkeys brown or Penetrating Puce?

Alas, there doesn't seem to be an end in sight to the growing lists of what kids need to make their school year safe and educational. Thankfully - so far, anyway - first-graders haven't been required to provide their own laptop computers so they can access the "See Spot Run" database and prepare their homework using Power Point presentations. But it's coming, I'm sure.

Next year, for instance, I can envision a number of additions to the growing back-to-school lists. With the growing threat of West Nile virus apparently here to stay, add repellents containing DEET or mosquito netting to the list for recess and those after-school extracurricular activities. Either that or eliminate outside activities and force the kids to stay inside and draw pictures of the outside world using their box of 500 crayons and a television for reference.

And with all the recent child abductions, what school wouldn't want to cover its backside by requiring that each child attending class be equipped with a subcutaneous ID and homing transmitter? There's something you might want to buy stock in.

Ah, for the good old days when parents' biggest concern about sending their kid to school was whether they had on clean underwear and could read by the time they entered college.

Marty Russell writes a Wednesday column for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at P.O. Box 909, Tupelo MS 38804 or by e-mail at

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