School starts today for most traditionally scheduled public school kids in North Carolina, which means sometime within the past few weeks, you’ve had to make the annual school supply run. These purchases can be nostalgic — taking you back to the days of the Trapper Keeper and scratch-n-sniff stickers.

To mark the official start of the 2018-19 academic year, The Rant is the only news source in this great state with the courage to rank the best and worst school supplies. Feel free to agree or disagree in the comments, or share with us your favorite items.


• Erasers: Whether they’re the small salmon-colored erasers that pop on to the end of your pencil or the rubbery ones that are roughly the size of a skipping stone, erasers are cool — especially when they’re shaped like other things like stars or footballs or lollipops. They smell great, and they’re not a bad substitute for gum when you’re really desperate to chew on something.

• Composition Notebooks: One of the few items on this list that is great for kindergarteners through college students. Composition notebooks often have that great marble cover, paper that tears out seamlessly on most occasions and the perfect size that is smaller than a regular notebook but bigger than index cards. Plus, you can get college-ruled or wide-ruled. There’s choices!

• Fresh backpack: Long before you accidentally leave a banana in it or those socks you wore to gym for a week (thus, stinking it up forever), few things are better than the new, fresh backpack. It’s akin to “new car smell.” Backpacks are great for the little ones, because they can fit their whole life in there (plus a lunchbox). They’re great for the bigger kids, too, because they beat carrying books in your arms and just inviting some bully to come by and knock them out and laugh at you as you pick them up while trying not to be late to class. Man, I have issues.

A great ball-point pen: It has to be a “great” ball point pen, because those crappy Bic pens with the cap that breaks all too easily and that run out of ink after two days of use are just worthless. A great, smooth pen is much better. Just don’t lose it. Because you’ll always lose these pens. Those Bics, on the other hand, will stay with you through your first mortgage, long after it quit working.

Scientific Calculator: Sure, your phone can do most of what you need now, but how cool was it to get that new calculator in seventh grade that helped with the algebra and calculus and what-not? Plus, you can still spell 35007 and 58008 on it after you find the square root of 7,013.

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• Glue sticks: I suppose they’re a cleaner option for the good-ol’ Elmers glue, but the problem with glue sticks is they don’t work. Or they do, but the purple seeps through the paper. At least with the white wood glue, you had that great smell that was probably not good for you. Plus, all you eraser-chewers out there probably liked to nibble on some dried up Elmers from time to time, too. It’s OK. There’s nothing wrong with that. You came out normal-ish.

• Kleenex, paper towels, wipes: This one’s mostly for the parents, and it speaks to our government’s inability to properly fund our schools. When parents and teachers are forced to shell out their hard-earned dough so Tommy’s throw-up doesn’t harden up on the linoleum an hour after he got sick, it’s just sad. Plus, this stuff ain’t cheap — we didn’t go through five years of wipes-buying with our toddlers just so the schools could make us buy more for their kindergarteners. For shame.

• Loose-leaf paper: As great as composition paper is, spiral notebooks are evil. Even the perforated paper rarely ever comes out like you want it. And you’re stuck with paper shreds that stay at the bottom of your backpack or in the backseat of your car with the old, cheap Bics long past your first divorce. Spiral notebooks should go the way of the straw.

Mechanical pencil: How dare you gently press your mechanical pencil to your paper? Of course it’s going to break! The nerve of you thinking otherwise.

Three-ring binder: I suppose I don’t have a whole lot against the three-ring binder, except that there’s few things more painful than getting the meat of your palm snapped into one of these while you’re trying to close them. Also, nothing is worse than having holes in your paper that just barely aren’t the same size as your binder rings. You know, I’ve talked myself into hating these more. Go to hell, binders.