Reused School Books by Cartoonist Maeve O’Keeffe

Cartoonist, Cork, Ireland

New edition schoolbooks seem like a rip-off in back to school cost

Instead of reuse, new edition schoolbooks seem like a rip-off for back to school costs.

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Now that school reopening is just around the corner, the pressure is on to get the books and schoolbags sorted.  Daughter’s old Junior Cert books are still stacked on the floor.  Although segregated into piles of what can be dumped, sold or potentially passed on, it’s a tedious job.  Same with the uniforms – what can be salvaged and handed down to the next sibling?  Would another child use the perfectly good but outgrown tracksuit?

Nothing for it but to wade through the pile.  Cluttered cupboards have taught me that there’s no point in hoarding old copybooks.  I’ve kept a few from their early years and that’s enough.  In adulthood, will they really care how well they could spell or do long division?  At least the primary school copybooks are light.  The hardback books and copies needed for second level are killers to carry and put horrific pressure on young students’ backs.

A requirement for secondary school will be a wheelie bag to cart these weighty tomes.  In the spirit of recycling, I bought a second-hand one, a welcome saving with the back to school expense.  Even so, as I trawled through all their books, I cursed another aspect of our education system.

Every year it’s the same story.  Perfectly good textbooks can’t be reused because either the content is supposedly improved and republished or the curriculum changes.  Last year it was mathematics.  Between the kids’ primary and secondary school texts, we had four maths books which were defunct because of the new Project Maths course.  Arithmetic doesn’t change so why ‘fix’ it if it ain’t broke?

With regard to updating existing textbooks, surely a sensible idea would be to print, let’s say, a €2 booklet listing additions and changes instead of forcing people to fork out over €30 for a brand new version?

Recently I brought twenty redundant schoolbooks to the second-hand bookshop.  Only five were reusable, the salesman informed me, due to (surprise, surprise) curriculum changes and new editions.  The remainder were only fit for recycling.  So much for our government’s feeble efforts at cutting school going costs?

This year we’re facing heart-stopping expenditure, with my youngest starting Secondary (book cost approx €350) while my daughter starting 5th year, will need the full set of textbooks for Leaving Cert 2016.  Luckily our fourteen year-old’s school already has a book rental scheme.  Never mind new or updated uniforms, shoes, schoolbags, copies and stationary – I’m dreading our eventual bill after book costs have been added in.  We’re trying our best to tick the three ‘R’s – reuse, reduce, but with such savage back to school expense, it’s galling to see good books go in the recycle bin.

Maeve O’Keeffe, the Frazzled Mammy!   ©Maeve O’Keeffe 2014

Maeve O’Keeffe is a Cartoonist, Illustrator and Journalist in Cork, Ireland 

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