A scientific calculator. I don’t remember that ever being on an official school supplies list when I was growing up. It is today. It’s on almost every list that I uncovered by searching online for “typical school supplies list.”

A scientific calculator.

I don’t remember that ever being on an official school supplies list when I was growing up. It is today. It’s on almost every list that I uncovered by searching online for “typical school supplies list.”

It could have been that I’m old enough to have grown up before we had science, at least as an organized class in which we could experimentally prove anything. As I remember it, our entire chemistry lab consisted of a Bunsen burner and a few flasks. You’re not going to cure any diseases with that.

I know we didn’t have calculators. Our calculators were our fingers. And those of us with good imaginations who could visualize without taking off shoes in class could figure on our toes.

But I think the main reason I don’t recall ever seeing a calculator on a school supplies list is simply we didn’t have such lists when I was going to school.

When I went to school we had mothers who had large numbers of children, so buying school supplies was almost instinctive. They bought. We took.

“All right, let’s go through this. Paper, pencils, pencil sharpener, ruler. Here’s your bottle of Elmer’s glue — be careful with that. And don’t forget your eraser — you’ll need that,” my mother would say before she sent me out of the house on the first day of school. “Here’s your lunch. There’s something special in it for you.”

Oh, great, I was going to have to read one of those “Have a nice day. I love you!” notes with the hearts on it in front of the guys again this year. They never warn you about that on the list.

We threw in a ballpoint pen later in life, when we were old enough to not make as many mistakes or, perhaps, for lesson-teaching purposes, needed to make them permanent.

But most of the lists I looked at require red pens, too. Students didn’t have red pens when I went to school.

Teachers had red pens. I believe they had many red pens. Don’t ask me how I know.

Water-based markers and colored highlighters are listed on most of the lists. Education, apparently, has taken a giant leap forward. Highlighters are a handy educational tool that I, personally, didn’t learn about until college. They limit the amount of things a student thinks he needs to study. If it’s not highlighted, how important can it be?

The list of required tools of education seem endless. A pencil case, pocket folders, lined paper, plain paper, pencil crayons, binders, subject dividers and a geometry set make most of the lists.

I’m guessing the items in the geometry set are those plastic geometric templates that keep nonartistic students’ squares and rectangles from turning out as trapezoids.

A pocket dictionary, a thesaurus, an agenda book/student planner and a stapler also are listed. I don’t recall my teachers ever wanting us to write anything long enough for it to be stapled together.

One list even required a staple remover. Hey, once an assignment was turned in, it was the teacher’s responsibility to take it apart. A pupil probably could get in trouble with the teachers union for taking out staples.

Of course, even armed with the most exhaustive list of supplies, a student still has to get those supplies to school. And once the supplies are stashed in a desk, that student has to hold onto them through an entire school year — not an easy educational feat.

This is probably the reason that, if I close my eyes and listen, I can almost hear a teacher saying, “OK, who else doesn’t have a pencil? ...” And I can see myself raising my hand.

Contact Gary Brown at gary.brown@cantonrep.com.