Why am I still concerned with kids and their Pokemon cards? It feels like I've been doing this forever. And if you consider that I have been teaching at this school forever, at least that's what the kids tell me, then it makes sense. Back in 1996, Pokemon cards first became available in Japan. A few years later, they were picked up here in the United States and this fad has continued more or less unabated for the past two decades.
For the uninitiated, Pokemon (pocket monsters) are a shred of Japanese culture that has become a fixture in the hearts and minds of children across the planet. While some trends come and go, this one stuck. World of Warcraft, Legend of the Five Rings, even a Star Wars version of this collectible card game have come and gone while Pokemon reigns supreme.
Kids bring their collections, sometimes in neatly organized binders but mostly in loose stacks that are shoved into jacket pockets or held under desks by the fist full when anyone is looking. They are fetish objects for the elementary set. The power these colorfully painted pieces of paper hold over their holders is frightening. The tears that erupt when cards are lost or ruined, the distractions generated by their mere presence, and the Gollum-esque fixation that comes over kids as they attempt to collect the most obscure and rare is confounding. This past week we had to shut down a black market sales ring that was convening behind our portable classrooms. Boys were selling them to their classmates for a dollar apiece. Considering you can buy a box of one hundred for twenty dollars, that's a pretty steep markup. Which also brings parents down to school to find out why their child's after school snack money has "disappeared" over the past few weeks. It hasn't disappeared so much as been redistributed. Now some of the more entrepreneurial kids will be getting more afternoon snacks. And laughing all the way to the metaphorical bank.
So while the weeping will continue until we round up every last one and stick them in ziploc bags to be picked up at the end of school, it will be the job of every adult to keep an eye out for those furtive glances and fists stuck inside pockets. Because we weren't busy doing anything else.