Sunday, November 6, 2011

Solving heavy backpacks that injure our children

(September 6, 2006) Early this week, as children were going back to school, a report on children getting injured because they have to carry heavy backpacks was again highlighted on a feature story of a leading TV news program. This is not new. In fact, before the end of the millennium, there have been studies that heavy backpacks cause injuries to schoolchildren, either suffering from a lower back pain or in the shoulders.

What’s troubling, however, is that many students, who always feel very proud of going to school, seem not to mind carrying heavy backpacks, as if these are the norms, especially when they are in higher grades. As if it comes with the responsibility of being a student of higher grade, and one should not complain because everyone in the class has to carry the same load.

In the school where my daughters go to, higher grades are classed on the second floor. Other schools go up as high as four storeys. And to think they have to carry their backpacks all the way up there.
Sensing trouble when I saw my younger daughter carry her loaded backpack, I took the liberty of speaking to the principal after school (she’s new) about what I think was a problem that is mostly overlooked by parents, who might think that because their children are bussed to schools or dropped off inside the campus, heavy backpacks are negligible. Well, I’m sorry, parents. But I needed to do this because I think there are better ways to improve the situation, and because, even if your child has not complained about it, many are suffering from injuries and that they only make it to the headlines on the first day of school.

According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, your child’s backpack should weigh less than 15 percent of their body weight. A 100-pound child shouldn’t be carrying more than 15-pounds of weight, the academy said, which doesn’t need explaining. And this the principal, thank God, already knew. She even said that it’s “ridiculous” for children to be carrying heavy bags. I told her I have no problems with children taking their books home and studying hard (hopefully), but there should be a better way to relieve the students of the heavy burden. She assured me that she will meet with the faculty on how to address the weighty problem, like perhaps they can alternate the days in which kids will bring home books from one subject at a time.

My wife has been suggesting that instead of books, children should be bringing home CDs as she thinks, with today’s technology, most books were already conceptualized in a computer even before they were printed. Ergo, an electronic copy should now be available. She found out from at least one publisher, McGraw Hill, that some books used by our daughters, which were published as early as 2003, are already available in a CD format. (Remember the advertisement where novels are already available on CDs, thereby allowing you to read them with your laptop? What’s more, some books on CDs can now be heard, no reading is necessary, all it takes is a set of head phones. Yes, my daughter told me that too. That everybody should learn how to read and that listening is not an option. Only for the seeing impaired, and maybe for old folks like me, who always needs to find his reading glasses in order to read. He..he...)

My daughter said that just like any file sharing software wreaking havoc on many recording companies, books on CDs can be copied resulting in copyright infringements. I responded that publishers can encrypt the formats so there will be no “illegal copying” (good luck!). I also told my daughter that we will even save on trees and freight cost since shipping heavy books, both hard and soft bound, is pricey as against a copy of a CD which can be sent by regular mail, if not totally downloaded from the publisher’s website, which means more savings for us. I also went as far as telling her that this will solve the problem of the lack of books in many countries, including mine back in the Philippines, where during my elementary days, we had to share books in class because there were not enough books. With CD copies or access to the internet, everyone should be able to read their assigned book, further enhancing literacy. 

Another argument my daughter raised though is that some still don’t have computers. I said, well, there are libraries, where computers and internet access are available. Also, with an electronic format, libraries won’t have to maintain several copies – one would be enough in the computer hard drive or in the network. Besides, it’s better to invest in computers, which has many uses, than purchasing volumes of books of the same title. Lastly, we prevent injuries to the back and shoulders because of heavy backpacks.(RFL)

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