The Ministry of Silly Bans

PJ Media’s S.T. Karnick hits a silly ban on Silly Bandz, cheap rubber wristbands that are a fad for kids and a bane for adults. Karnick writes:

This is conclusive proof, if any were yet needed, that the people who run America’s schools hate kids and are utterly power-mad.

According to Time, schools in New York, Texas, Florida and Massachusetts have declared the Bandz are contraband.

Students fiddle with them during class and arrange swaps — trading, say, a bracelet with a mermaid for one with a dragon — when they should be concentrating on schoolwork, teachers say. Sometimes a trade goes bad — kids get buyer’s remorse too — and hard feelings, maybe even scuffles, ensue.

Without Silly Bandz, none of these things would happen, of course.

If Silly Bandz are very tight, they might block blood flow, a doctor warns. Karnick is not impressed.

Any child whose parents are so oblivious as to fail to notice that their children’s hands are in danger of falling off has much bigger problems than an excessive fondness for Silly Bandz.

. . . The movement to ban the latest thing children have found to enjoy is a blatantly idiotic manifestation of the constant impulse of our federal, state, and local governments to suppress every attempt by the nation’s children to enjoy themselves in a natural, unforced way without adults turning it into some vile, arid, obvious learning experience.

I’m still bitter about Ravinia Elementary School’s ban on cinnamon toothpicks circa 1960. That was supposed to be for our safety too. We might poke ourselves or get a splinter or . . . Stupid grown-ups.

Update: Teachers report on the spread of the Silly Bandz craze in North Carolina and New York City.

About Joanne


  1. I’m not sure when marbles were banned (sometime after 1953 when I left the 7th grade (five of the happiest years of my life)). Playing for keepsies was frowned on by all the authorities (Mama and the teachers).

    A pocket full of marbles, a finger drawn circle in the dirt, and a group of kids. God, we were subversive!


  2. A few years ago, sage commentators were ridiculing the ban on Pokemon cards at schools. Does anyone care about Pokemon anymore? No, because it is no longer a fad or a distraction. The bracelets will go the same way. It isn’t the item itself (they’re often meaningless), but the fact that they are a distraction. And GOD FORBID schools try to reduce distractions in the learning environment. Because kids have the RIGHT to enjoy cinnamon toothpicks, bracelets, trading cards, etc. when we’re trying to teaching them to read.

  3. Michael E. Lopez says:

    If elementary schools had anything whatsoever like a simulation of a ruthless free market for kids to learn about trading and selling, I could agree with Lightly Seasoned’s characterization of these things as distractions.

    But the fact is that there’s a lot more to learn about life than how to write a five paragraph essay and resolve a quantificational comparison. Things like Pokemon, marbles (Marbles had a resurgence in California in 1983-1985, as I recall fondly), Garbage Pail Kids, Baseball Cards…. these are ways for kids to learn about markets and collecting and acquisition. Good lessons.

  4. Math Teacher says:

    “…there’s a lot more to learn about life… Things like Pokemon, marbles, Garbage Pail Kids, Baseball Cards…. these are ways for kids to learn about markets and collecting and acquisition. Good lessons.”

    A lot more to learn about life? Since when was that the school’s responsibility? Unless these “lessons” are evaluated by the standardized tests (which they are not), then they are indeed distractions.

    You people promote the dogma of maximum achievement, high test scores, and tough accountability, but in this case you yearn for some romanticized ideal of school, which includes marbles and cinnamon sticks… Make up your minds!

  5. Right. I’m accountable for their achievement, but don’t dare take their toys away during class!

    I’ll bet the children are not playing with cheap bracelets during math class at school in Singapore, Korea, Finland, and all those other countries that are used to shame U.S. teachers.

  6. Bill Leonard says:

    Well, now. Back in the dark ages when I was a kid, trading cards — each card for a penny included one square of bubble gum — went, successively, from about 1948 on, from sports heroes (I had a cherished Joe Louis card, but could care less about Ralph Kiner) to military themes (the Korean War period) to airplanes, to cars, to whatever came next.

    Marbles were great — always played for keeps — but were seasonal, through about 7th grade. There was no date for the formal startup of marbles, which overlapped softball/baseball, but it was always in the spring, and every boy always seemed to know intuitively when it was time. Girls, of course, always had jacks.

    Intrusive on the “educational process”? Yeah, probably, but every teacher’s working rule, strictly enforced on penalty of the mis reants who were caught surrendering their cards, etc, was, none of the stuff in class. It was recess and lunchtime only. And somehow we all learned just fine.

    Lighten up, people, take control of your classrooms, and otherwise, just let kids be kids.

  7. Nowhere does it say that this stuff is taking place in class. The poster is correct- it is just kids having fun during recess/lunch and adults trying to micromanage them and decide what it best for them at all times. Kind of like government trying to be a nanny and tell us adults what to do at all times, even if our actions do not harm or even affect others. They get you from start to finish!

  8. Michael E. Lopez says:

    We teachers need to get over the idea that education, or even school, is all about what *we* are supposed to do. We’re a big part of it, but only a part of it.

  9. For a short period of time, about 20 years ago, Troll Dolls were the rage.

    I don’t know how it happened, but one Troll Doll fell in love with another.

    Their owners asked me if they could get married and I said sure, why not? But what they were really asking for was permission to use the classroom for the wedding ceremony.

    So we had the wedding during lunch and two hundred students crammed into my classroom to see it.

    That’s a lot more people than who attended my two weddings combined.

    I like the fact that school is a place, not a factory, where even Trolls try to bond for life.

  10. Roger Sweeny says:

    I agree with Swede and Bill Leonard. Let kids do it in lunch and recess–and keep it out of the classroom. Unfortunately, lots of kids have no recess and a rushed 28 minute lunch.

  11. Richard Cook says:

    That’s a nice thought Michael but it’s what you are being held responsible for. Now I am not a teacher but I have noticed that teachers are being held accountable for not only Reading, Writing and Math, but, in a round about way the development of the student, their moral character, etc, etc. Theoretically things the parents should be accountable for but, increasingly are being made the pervue of teachers. I don’t know about this fad, but just wanted to respond to your post.

  12. Michael E. Lopez says:

    Mr. Cook,

    I agree — the portfolio of the elementary/secondary teacher is expanding — perhaps at an unsustainable and inappropriate rate. But I wanted to point something out: Just because I (we) am (are) being held responsible for something doesn’t mean that I receive universal unbridled power to effect it.

    (I’m not, by the by, saying that you necessarily disagree with this. I also am simply responding to some of the issues raised in your post.)

    There was a comment a few posts back where someone said something like “If my pay and my job security is going to depend on student scores, I’m going to insert myself into my students’ home lives.” (Or words to that effect.)

    Except that we just don’t get to do that. We have responsibilities, and we have to make do with the authority and resources that rightfully belong to us — which don’t always amount to the same thing as the authority and resources to guarantee success.

    One way of looking at this is that life is unfair — even for teachers. Another way of looking at it is that it’s a JOB and not a sinecure.

  13. This is deja vu all over again.

    Remember the jelly bracelet fad of the early 90s (I think) — there was breathless reporting that this color or that meant that the wearer had engaged or would engage in a particular sexual activity.

  14. What a nice sentiment, Robert Wright. I bet those kids (now adults) have very fond memories of that day.

  15. Richard Nieporent says:

    Bill Leonard, thanks for the nostalgia. I grew up in the Bronx during the same time period as you. (I was 5 in 1948). I still remember waiting anxiously for the bell to ring so that I could go home and shoot marbles, flip cards or fly balsa wood planes we bought for 10 cents. As if by some magic command the season would change and we would stop playing marbles and start flipping cards. If only we had kept the cards in mint condition instead of flipping them we could have been rich. Come to think of it if we only kept all of those comic books we wouldn’t be worrying about the stock market tanking!

    You would think by the responses of some of the teachers that they had never been children. How sad. Somehow, even with all of those distractions, we managed to graduate from school, go on to college and even graduate and professional schools.

  16. Richard Aubrey says:

    I won’t say I looked forward to elementary school, or junior high. The latter was dicey, being in a 7-12 building.
    However, a few distractions made the day go faster.
    You’ll note that, while said distractions are getting the attention of the ‘crats, scores are dropping.
    I suppose it’s one of those desperation moves, “We’ve thought of everything else. At least it will look as if we’re doing something. Even if it makes us look stupid.”

  17. Cranberry says:

    All of my children attend schools which have dress codes. Not all of them enforce it. On balance, the schools which enforce their dress codes have more civilized environments. For me, it comes down to picking my battles. Would I mount the barricades for my child’s right to wear 50 cheap rubber bands on her wrist at school? No. I also wouldn’t mount the barricades for her right to wear slutty clothing.

  18. This is probably a good time to read Orwell’s essay, Such, Such Were The Joys. Orwell understood that children and adults live in completely different worlds and that adults little appreciate this fact:

    It will have been seen
    that my own main trouble was an utter lack of any sense of proportion or
    probability. This led me to accept outrages and believe absurdities, and
    to suffer torments over things which were in fact of no importance. It is
    not enough to say that I was ‘silly’ and ‘ought to have known better.’
    Look back into your own childhood and think of the nonsense you used to
    believe and the trivialities which could make you suffer. Of course my
    own case had its individual variations, but essentially it was that of
    countless other boys. The weakness of the child is that it starts with a
    blank sheet. It neither understands nor questions the society in which it
    lives, and because of its credulity other people can work upon it,
    infecting it with the sense of inferiority and the dread of offending
    against mysterious, terrible laws.

    We aren’t generally sending our kids off to stern, British boarding schools, but it seems to me that the same sentiments apply. Making up silly rules for kids only confirms their suspicion that adults are arbitrary overlords. This, in turn, obviously leads to kids with less respect for adults, teachers and education in general.

  19. As a teacher I can attest that kids are playing with them during lessons. I rotate among schools and I experienced this latest distraction the other day with a 1st grade class. I confiscated two and made it clear (as did the classroom teacher) that any bracelets (or other things) in hands during my science lesson would become mine. That put an end to it. I confiscate things regularly (all are returned to student or teacher at the end of my lesson). I have no problem with kids trading/playing with these at lunch or recess. Private donations have made it possible for me to bring extra science lessons to public schools in my area. I think I deserve at least a minimum level of respect from the children. I’ve taught my own elementary-aged children that talking with other kids or playing with something during lessons is disrespectful to the teacher. Some of the comments above make it seem as though I should be doing the opposite. Weird.

  20. Math Teacher says:

    You have my vote Geena… in the classroom these items (whatever they may be) can become big distractions. On the playground they may be mostly harmless, and we generally ignore them until they lead to conflicts and fights, and conflict resolution after recess that eats into instructional time. We had that happening last year around pokemon cards, and had to put the kibosh on those.

    One other not-so-small thing to ponder on the subject of lessons of acquisition: let us consider for a moment that these cheap, cute, little rubber bracelets are likely made from petroleum products. Not all crude oil gets turned into gasoline after all, but into loads of “stuff” that we may have sacrificed our beautiful gulf for. That said, I think I prefer cinnamon tooth picks and marbles (and baseball cards too).

    Mostly though, I think this discussion is illuminating the concern posters have for the humanity of children and their needs outside of taking tests and meeting standards. I agree, playing marbles, flying airplanes and trading fun stuff is of equal or greater value to filling in bubbles… and certainly much more fun.

  21. Teachers should confiscate the bracelets if they are a distraction. Then the kids trade stories about which teachers took the bracelets, which teachers made them laugh, which ones are very serious about it. It becomes part of a shared school experience. But to ban them completely…overkill.