Big Lunchlady Is Watching You

(Guest post by Greg Forster)

Theorists like Amy Gutmann argue that parental freedom needs to be compromised in the name of democracy because parents can’t be trusted as the default authority over the education of children. Jay has frequently responded by pointing out that this logic, applied consistently, would produce not just government control of formal schooling but government control of every aspect of child-rearing. One example I’ve seen him use to devastating effect is to point out that we don’t establish government control over children’s meals in order to ensure kids are getting proper nutrition. Jay suggests that this inconsistency indicates that these theories of democracy are really invented post facto to justify social institutions whose real existential principle is to provide unions with a gravy train.

Well, Jay, you should be careful what you ask for.

The Chicago Tribune reports that some Chicago schools – a government spokesperson declines to say how many – forbid students to bring any food from home unless they have a medical excuse.

Principal Elsa Carmona said her intention is to protect students from their own unhealthful food choices.

“Nutrition wise, it is better for the children to eat at the school,” Carmona said. “It’s about the nutrition and the excellent quality food that they are able to serve (in the lunchroom). It’s milk versus a Coke. But with allergies and any medical issue, of course, we would make an exception.”

Carmona said she created the policy six years ago after watching students bring “bottles of soda and flaming hot chips” on field trips for their lunch. Although she would not name any other schools that employ such practices, she said it was fairly common. [ea]

The Tribune headline writer makes an amusing attempt to soften the obvious implications here – the headline says the school forbids only “some lunches” from home. The actual policy described in the article is that all food from home is banned unless you challenge the ban and have a special medical reason.

Most readers of JPGB probably won’t need to have the real agenda spelled out here. Kudos to the Trib writers, Monica Eng and Joel Hood, for spelling it out to the paper’s readers:

Any school that bans homemade lunches also puts more money in the pockets of the district’s food provider, Chartwells-Thompson. The federal government pays the district for each free or reduced-price lunch taken, and the caterer receives a set fee from the district per lunch.

This lunchroom needs a better class of criminal.

It’s the same basic principle that has been driving the runaway overhiring of teachers for decades. It just involves the extension of the principle to a new sphere of social control.

HT Joe Carter at First Things

6 Responses to Big Lunchlady Is Watching You

  1. The hypocrisy of the Amy Gutmann position would only be eliminated if they started delivering meals to kids’ homes for dinner, over the weekends, and during the summer. Yes, steps have been taken in that direction but I’ve never heard the democratic theorists actually advocate for government inspection of home cleanliness and nutritional offerings.

  2. Greg Forster says:

    That’s true, but these things don’t happen instantaneously. As the culture of familial authority recedes in power and influence, social structures will gradually change over from the old model to the new collectivist model. Forbidding lunches from home is clearly a step in that direction.

    Also, I suppose I should note that the causation doesn’t have to run only from the material to the ideological – structures created to service district/union/vendor greed are rationalized after the fact by ideologues. The causation runs the other way as well – exogenous growth in worship of the state opens up opportunities that are then seized by material interests. “Hard” historical and sociological materialism is itself a Marxist agenda!

  3. Patrick says:

    Over here in Nevada, where we are still in a big recession (unemployment rates higher than in France) and in a budget fight of whether to keep the gravy train rolling or to actually cut it back, the teacher union folks are now arguing that we need even more for our child’s education – more nurses, better food, even get the government to help in the home – I believe they were referring to the government providing in-home healthcare visits for children and special government mentoring for parents. But I’m not sure as to what exactly they want other than more government jobs.

  4. JBB says:

    Although I agree with the point of this post, you should have included that the principal in question forbids food from “home” because it turns out to be chips and soda. She does not see home-packed bag lunches, she sees kids who stop at the corner store and get junk food. I feel very torn over this issue. On the one hand, you cringe when parents allow their children to become habituated to this kind of food (which is why the kids often throw away the school food), but you also don’t want to usurp parental decisions as long as the kids are not actually hungry. Even more tragic is that this is a community of Mexican immigrants; the parents were mostly born in Mexico, and as nutrition experts will tell you, they eat a diet that actually keeps them healthier than non-immigrants. But the kids’ generation, not so much. And with respect to home health visits: hmmm. As a lifelong Democrat, I want health care to be available, but again I rebel against infantilizing parents to that extent.

  5. Greg Forster says:

    If this were about chips and soda, she could have just banned chips and soda.

    That’s not what this is about at all.

  6. Daniel Earley says:

    “. . . I rebel against infantilizing parents to that extent.”

    Apparently, to some other extent might be OK. I’m curious to know where the “sweet spot” is for infantilizing parents.

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