Long Live the Trapper-Keeper

Slate's Culture Blog
Aug. 19 2010 5:53 PM

Long Live the Trapper-Keeper

Recently, an editor at Slate asked me to write a back-to-school shopping column about the new technology that students are using to stay organized academically. I agreed enthusiastically: I’ve heard that children undergo a surgical procedure at age 9 to attach a cell phone to their tiny little texters (what the rest of us still call fingers ), and that most without developmental disabilities can jailbreak an iPhone by 18 months. What mysterious digital devices are they buying to keep track of their geometry assignments?

My first e-mail was to a teacher at a New Haven, Conn., public school. Surely, I wrote, "current students don't use the same simple paper calendars or Trapper-Keepers that we did." Actually, that’s exactly what they use, she replied: She spots the occasional Trapper-Keeper amid the extremely popular school-issued official planners. Her school also offers an online version of the planner, but several kids I interviewed averred that "no one uses it." As for cell phone calendars and the like, kids are using them with greater frequency, but often employ them exclusively for social engagements (especially in schools where cell phone use is verboten during class).


I felt cheated. Maybe I just wasn’t checking on posh-enough kids—the rich are different from you and me, right? I e-mailed administrators at Phillips Academy, Andover, Mass., who said that, yep, kids use a combo of the official planner and their smartphones.

Perhaps Americans are just falling behind the rest of the world in our educational gadgets (the ripple effect of our math/science deficiency)? My sister works for a university in the world’s wealthiest country per capita . Her students, she tells me, use …   the free planner the school gives them. And their BlackBerrys. No mention of either being diamond-encrusted. Maybe the Trapper-Keeper will never go out of style—certainly cocky teenage insouciance won’t: A friend’s 14-year-old sister replied to my query about how she stays organized: "Um, I just remember."

Noreen Malone is a senior editor at New York magazine.



The Self-Made Man

The story of America’s most pliable, pernicious, irrepressible myth.

The GOP Senate Candidate in Iowa Doesn’t Want Voters to Know Just How Conservative She Really Is

Does Your Child Have “Sluggish Cognitive Tempo”? Or Is That Just a Disorder Made Up to Scare You?

The Supreme Court, Throughout Its History, Has Been a Massive Disappointment

Why Indians in America Are Mad for India’s New Prime Minister

Damned Spot

Now Stare. Don’t Stop.

The perfect political wife’s loving gaze in campaign ads.

Building a Better Workplace

You Deserve a Pre-cation

The smartest job perk you’ve never heard of.

Rehtaeh Parsons Was the Most Famous Victim in Canada. Now, Journalists Can’t Even Say Her Name.

Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD

The XX Factor
Sept. 30 2014 12:34 PM Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD
Sept. 30 2014 12:04 PM John Hodgman on Why He Wore a Blue Dress to Impersonate Ayn Rand
  News & Politics
Sept. 30 2014 2:36 PM This Court Erred The Supreme Court has almost always sided with the wealthy, the privileged, and the powerful, a new book argues.
Building a Better Workplace
Sept. 30 2014 1:16 PM You Deserve a Pre-cation The smartest job perk you’ve never heard of.
Sept. 30 2014 1:48 PM Thrashed Florida State’s new president is underqualified and mistrusted. But here’s how he can turn it around.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 30 2014 12:34 PM Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 30 2014 3:21 PM Meet Jordan Weissmann Five questions with Slate’s senior business and economics correspondent.
Brow Beat
Sept. 30 2014 4:45 PM Steven Soderbergh Is Doing Some Next-Level Work on The Knick
Future Tense
Sept. 30 2014 2:38 PM Scientists Use Electrical Impulses to Help Paralyzed Rats Walk Again
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 30 2014 7:30 AM What Lurks Beneath the Methane Lakes of Titan?
Sports Nut
Sept. 28 2014 8:30 PM NFL Players Die Young. Or Maybe They Live Long Lives. Why it’s so hard to pin down the effects of football on players’ lives.