Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Things that Must Go: Scapegoating Public Schools

The Issue: Childhood obesity has reached such a crisis that it is a threat to national security.

The Reason: Potential recruits don't meet the strict physical requirements for military service.

The Solution: Fix the school lunch system?

I heard about this on the news, then read this article about it. Honestly, I am incensed. Is it unacceptable that 27% of young Americans are obese? Absolutely. Are school lunches (and breakfasts for that matter) sub-par? Why else do you think I brown bag it each day? What frightens me here is that, once again, society's ills are solely depicted as the schools' responsibility.

I call foul.

We educators are in the business of educating. That is why I became an educator--to teach. However, schools as a whole have been assigned the task of playing band-aid to societal issues better suited for surgery. If there is one thing I've learned about the public's attitude toward education it is this: it is ALWAYS our fault. Whatever it is, we did it. Blame us. Sorry 'bout that.

But I can't help but wonder: why not tackle the entirely corrupt and completely disgusting system of mass-produced "food" companies? What about city governments that allow for a fast food joint on every corner in the lowest socio-economic neighborhoods? And whatcha gonna do about those who believe good parenting is as simple as sitting their child in front of the nearest video game console?

I'm sure part of school scapegoating originates because government agencies can ask favors of other government agencies. And there is some truth here--school lunch isn't anything to write home about. Furthermore, when you see what is being served it becomes a bit saddening that those students on free and reduced lunch in my neck of the woods eat two of their daily meals in the cafeteria--Monday through Friday. I completely support that school lunches should be addressed as a part of the solution to this epidemic obesity. But something tells me that school lunch is where this big government solution for obesity ends.

The recipe is simple: Fix something about the school system, pat yourselves on the back, call it solved. Works like a charm every dang time. Except when it doesn't.

To "The Man's" credit--it has to be difficult to point fingers when some of these "food" companies tip their hats--and wallets--to certain politicians. But what happens when a school lunch revolution is the only attempt at fixing this issue?

School lunch: definitely a place to start. Frankly, if lunches improve I might be able to buy my lunch every now and again without fearing the Frankenstein Food down in the cafeteria. It isn't so much the notion that we need to improve the quality of what we put in our mouths--including school lunch--but that the first (and potentially only) culprit for blame is placed public schools. If I could change one attitude in this society it would be this: The public school system is not the culprit of every societal ill, rather, it serves as a microcosm of the society it in which it exists.


Jen said...

I agree.

Miss Melissa Bee said...

Sounds like we need a lunch to discuss, but let's not meet in the school cafeteria. Thanks for the post. It was poignant and powerful, and also, unfortunately true.

Heidi said...

I agree!

Heidi said...

Hooray for you! Seems like your argumentative writing units are working in your favor, here.

I was told once by a super-irate parent that it was my fault that her son was cheating, because he didn't feel comfortable asking me for help.

Anonymous said...

Isn't it interesting that 40 years ago we were fed full fat, homemade everything and few children were obese. Now we actually do have reduced fat, reduced sodium, higher fiber, supposedly healthier lunches and a much higher percentage is overweight. I submit it has very little to do with school lunch. They main culprit is lifestyle choices. It doesn't take many calories to wiggle those fingers and play computer games!

Libby said...

I never really thought of it that way, but now that I do it seems like everything is blamed on the school system. Lame.

As if all of that blame makes our teachers, administrators, etc. want to try and work harder...

Lee Anne said...

Somehow ran across your blog and HAD to leave a comment.

I teach 6th grade and could not agree more with you on this post. In my opinion, it is just too easy to blame schools....for everything! Too easy, and not fair.

Our school does not serve enough food to cause ANYONE to be overweight. A growing 6th grader burns though whatever they consume in about an hour.

I live in MN where we have "fresh" produce for about 3 months out of the year and it's in the months we are in school. I am sorry, but for Oliver to say it's not expensive to eat healthy....that is wrong. It is in certain times of the year.

I can't MAKE a student take the heathly offerings. We can only offer it. And we do....and it sits and rots.

We are lucky enough to be able to avoid many processed foods and can make it homemade on site, many districts do not have that luxury.

Again, this issue frustrates me. I am tired of being blamed for every single thing. It's frustrating.

Alice said...

It is such crap but somehow blame is the name of the game. Passing the responsibility onto someone else or something else like school lunch or public schools comes so easy. People don't feel guilty because it's not like school lunch has feelings.

Your students would be proud. Your argumentative unit is paying off ;)

Remember how good school lunch was when we were kids? I still miss those rolls.

Terresa said...

I agree with you 100%!

What about parent's responsibility? How can we just keep pushing all of that onto the school system?

I pack my kids homemade lunches 5 days a week. I make sure to include fruit & veg & grains (sandwich). No juice drinks, just water.

Parents need to take more responsibility before turning to the govt & expecting them to do it all.

Great post!