Here at KidsPost, we often tackle the Big Questions, but sometimes we just get caught up in little, weird and infuriating ones. Such as the following:

Why are teachers always banning Trapper Keepers from their classrooms? In big, bold capital letters on school supply lists they beg, they plead:


And what the heck are Trapper Keepers, anyway? The name makes them sound like grizzled old pioneers in coonskin caps. Or a position you might play in soccer or quidditch.

When we found out what they were, the mystery only deepened. They are big three-ring binders that include pockets and folders, a pad of ruled paper and a velcro flap. Hmmm. Hardly dangerous contraband.

So, what's not to like, teachers?

Too big, too complicated, too organized, they say.

"They're real clever and cute, but they're just too big," said Lucinda Mann, who teaches fourth grade at Sugarland Elementary School in Sterling.

"They're so big, they take up so much space, they have so many compartments," Mann complained. Some of the 12-by-10.4-inch binders, Mann said, open out, with flaps on either side, making them really unwieldy in already-crowded classrooms.

"You ask a student to take out a worksheet, and by the time they open all the sections out and find it, the Trapper Keeper has reached over to another person's desk," she said.

Veteran teachers know it often comes down to desk size.

The other big complaint is that somehow, the multitude of folders and pockets in Trapper Keepers make students less organized.

"The kids with Trapper Keepers tend to throw the papers in and don't organize. They can't find anything," said Janice Kopp, a sixth-grade English teacher at Chevy Chase Elementary School.

Naturally, the people who make Trapper Keepers were not thrilled to hear that in some schools their product is as welcome as bubblegum or pet tarantulas.

"We saw those lists. We wondered why is it: 'NO TRAPPER KEEPERS!' in bold type? Why are [teachers] against them? It was quite a threat to us," said Lew White, director of marketing for school products at Mead Inc.

The criticism really stung because the product, introduced in 1980, became so popular.

"It's a huge name, we're very proud of it," White said. Some Trapper Keepers, like the ones with the Nintendo game character Sonic the Hedgehog on the cover, have even become highly prized collectibles.

Trapper Keepers may bring back fond memories for people who were kids in the 1980s, but they still don't do much for teachers. "We felt better after we heard it was just that they feel they take up too much space," White said.

So, what do teachers generally prefer?

Said Mann: "A simple three-ring binder with subject dividers will actually hold more."

-- Fern Shen