My Elementary School’s battle with Cliffs Notes

It happened very quickly. One day the corner store near my elementary school had a shelf filled with cupcakes and brownies, the next day it was gone and in its places was a rack filled with books with yellow covers. Since they were not comic books, I had very little interest in them, but they would become more controversial at my school than any comic book ever would.

These new arrivals were Cliffs Notes and they would change the way many of schoolmates approached schoolwork. These books are supposed to help summarize and give you insight into what you are reading. Cliff is taking notes while you do not have to, which sounds great, but instead they quickly became a substitute for reading the books.

My school quickly banned them from the premises and even asked the corner store to stop selling them. This attention backfired on them because suddenly a bright spotlight was shining down on that rack of yellow books and every day a throng of kids would gather around it looking for a shortcut that would alleviate the perceived burden of homework. The owner of the store even put up a sign-up sheet where you could request a copy of some Notes you found yourself needing.

I have no idea how much these books cost. Paying money for a “school book” that I could be spending on video games, comic books or candy seemed ludicrous to me. Heck, I would rather getting a failing grade than handover my video game quarters. So while the books figured prominently in my day-to-day through controversy, I have never actually seen the inside of one.

With the internet, I am not sure kids nowadays would need a book like this. Summaries and information is at their fingertips 24/7. Still, I hear about controversies related to kids using the internet for similar things, so I think this subject is relate-able across generations. It’s just in the eighties, the internet was printed on dead trees.

Did anyone else face a similar problem at their school with Cliffs Notes?

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The Retroist

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