Sunday, March 2, 2014

School Lunch: Service or Responsibility?

It's the eve of yet another snowstorm here in the city, and the thought of driving into work in a blizzard again is daunting.  New York City has a new mayor, and he is poised to undo a great deal of damage that his predecessor inflicted on educators.  De Blasio is fighting against charters setting up shop in public schools, he's in negociations with the teacher's union to create a contract to replace the one that expired  4 and a half years ago , and is generally much more teacher and education friendly then Bloombergito.  However, his refusal to close schools during the last snow dump dampens some of my enthusiasm for our "education friendly" mayor.

So, I risked my daughter's life so that she and
her classmates could do this?
The reason De Blasio gave for not closing schools last time was not treacherous conditions; it was terrible and dangerous weather last snowstorm, and having spent a large portion of my life in snow-charmed Michigan, it's no small achievement to get such a negative assessment of snowy circumstances from me.  No, he said schools were kept open in order to provide hot meals to children who otherwise might not get fed.  This is a lofty enough goal at the surface, but it begs the question, what is a school designed to do?  Is one of the functions of a school to feed its students?  I say no, it isn't.  It certainly is not justification to force over one-million students to venture into a white-out jungle.

A school is not a food pantry.  School does provide lunches, but the reason it does so is not so that children will not go hungry; the school lunch program was initiated to help farms unload excess food, not to feed poor children.  Schools once relied on students to provide not only their lunch, but to ensure they got to school on their own, and of course, produce the necessary supplies to learn.  Now, we do it all for them, for the good of the children.  But, the food they get in school gets thrown out immediately without a second thought, the school buses that we provide for them are havens for unruly, unsafe behavior, and the supplies we give them are mistreated.  And I think part of the reason is that we don't value things that we don't earn.  Now, food is different than transportation and books, in that it is a basic need, but it is still not appreciated if it is given to you, and eventually, it is seen as a sort of birthright. 

"I would never expect anyone to eat anything out
of the garbage."  That's funny, because I would never
 expect anyone who couldn't afford lunch to throw
 a free one away.
School is a place to learn.  Despite what the Common Core says, it's not to make students "college or career ready".  Schools are to teach children the basics: reading, writing and arithmetic.  Students were always "college or career ready" after their education, but it is not the state's job to prepare students for jobs; that is the private sector's responsibility.  It's the state's job to prepare people for life, and to give them the basic skills to make their way in the world.  Food has no place in this equation.  Buses don't either.  It is time for the state to let people know that the services it provides are not constitutional requirements and students need to realize that hot meals and buses are not part of their civil rights.  If a child was given a sandwich in colonial times and threw it out, he'd be forced to eat it, given a beating at school, and again at home.  Now, it's as if the teacher who made the child eat the food provided to him is the bad guy.  If a mayor wants to feed children, then have just the cafeteria staff come in during blizzards.  And even this is just a nicety, and should by no means be seen as part of the function of a place of learning.  But to risk the lives of every teacher, every student, every bus driver, pedestrian, commuter and citizen because the school has become a soup kitchen is ludicrous and it's creating a society of entitled brats.  Parents, it is your job to feed your kids.  But for the grace of God goes I, so, occasionally, you may need help nourishing your children.  Food stamps, WIC, SNAP: they're all there to help.  But school, no.  School is a place for learning.  Full stop.

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