Know what they're teaching kids at school? Vandalism. Our pantry was trashed last week by a couple of elementary school boys.
All the tops of our cereal boxes are gone. It looked like rats chewed into them, but it was the grandkids. They had come looking for box tops â¦ for school.
Not just any box tops. They had to have a special mark on them. "Gimmick for Grammar School" is a postage-size label on certain boxes of cereal.
At my grandsons' charter school, 12 "Gimmick for Grammar" tags earn each child a dress-down day during the week. They don't have to wear their junior Republican school uniforms. They can wear jeans.
The "cash" value of a box top is 10 cents. That's how much the cereal company gives the school for encouraging kids to drive their parents nuts pestering them to buy 12 boxes of Toasted Gooey Corn Whams.
OK, I'm not good at math, but I think I can do this. At $3.50 per box, 12 box tops times two kids is 84 bucks worth of cereal a week. Add the whining and you can also factor in the last nerve a parent could possibly have.
Total weekly per-kid return for the school: $1.20. Multiply that by 750 kids and it comes to $900 per week for the school, or $31,500 in weekly sales for the cereal company.
This assumes that all the kids participate. They don't. In any given school, including charter schools, at least 3 percent of the student body is made up of kids almost as defiantly uncooperative as I was.
But it's the hardest on parents who actually have to buy all that cereal. I checked. You can't just pay cash for the jeans day. It has to be tops.
Look, I don't have anything against the program. I do have a lot against teaching kids that $42 for a day of wearing whatever to school is a good deal.
Cereal box tops actually meant something when I was a kid. In 1963, four of them plus postage got me a Tony the Tiger bicycle horn. I used it to drive my mom, the next-door neighbor and my sister's cat insane.
There were even better deals on other boxes. "Just $2.99 and three Frosty Fox Nuggets box tops" got me an army tank that shot real sparks, a motorized spaceship model or a poster of Frosty Fox.
Most elementary kids will eventually figure out that 12 boxes of cereal for a measly dress-down day is a rip. They'll give it up.
If the cereal company and the schools want a seriously lucrative box-top arrangement, they should expand to the upper grades and offer real incentives.
In 10th grade I was caught smoking and ditching class a bunch of times. Let's lowball and say it was three-dozen separate incidents.
At 15 box tops per offense, that works out to be 540 tops, or enough "Sugar Smacks" to serve a completely unbalanced breakfast to Africa.
But had I been able to trade those offenses for redeemable box tops, the school would have made enough money off me to fund a science lab.
I don't even want to know how many box tops would have been required to get me out of a whacking.
Robert Kirby can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or facebook.com/stillnotpatbagley.