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The Danger of Blind Hypocrisy

The Danger of Blind Hypocrisy 

Powerful images are conjured up by the following news story by Todd Starns of Fox News.

School Bans Cookies, Candy, and Cake

"Some parents are calling school officials in Colorado 'food Nazis' after they announced a ban on all sweets, including cupcakes, candy bars and even birthday cakes – unless the cakes are made with district-approved recipes.

School officials in Greeley, CO advised parents that new federal guidelines require all food served on grade school campuses to adhere to strict calorie counts.

That means no more sweet treats like cake at birthday parties or class holiday parties – unless the cake is made with a recipe approved by the school district.

Anita Colwell’s nine year old daughter is a fourth grader at Scott Elementary School. She said her daughter refuses to eat the cafeteria food.

'They’re dictating what I can send with my child for lunch – what I can give them for a treat at a school party,' she said. “I don’t believe that’s right. It’s my child. I should be able to feed them whatever I want. They’re not raising my child. They’re not paying for their orthodontic bills. They’re not tucking them in at night telling them they love them. But yet they’re telling me what I can and can’t feed my child?'

She said school officials are acting like 'food Nazis.'
'This is how it starts,' she said. 'The government is sticking their nose where they don’t exactly belong.'"

Here is where Todd Starns and other commentators went wrong.

After the story broke news and commentary shows invited pundits and public opinion to oppose the "food Nazis".  The majority of opposition came from Republicans concerned that the ban was another example of government gone wild.  This is a conundrum for Republicans and conservatives.  How can you simultaneously want limited and local government, yet oppose it when a local school board, elected by the people, sets a policy?

The problem with most television programs is self-imposed time constraints that limit detail and depth into events.  Then hosts of these shows blame commercial breaks and the quick attention span of the audience.  As if stories cannot be picked up after a commercial break and as if the same audience that sits through hours of sports games is unable to pay attention to a story longer than thirty seconds.

Had these hosts and reporters dug a little deeper we would have found the root cause of this ban.  Teachers, social workers, nurses, doctors, and politicians are beyond frustrated dealing with the daily pressures and strains of their jobs.  Unlike in the the corporate world, public schools are compelled to provide services to all.  If a customer is disruptive on an airplane, in a supermarket, or office, he or she is ushered out of the business by the manager, owner, or police.  In the fields of education, medicine, and government, the "customers" are permanent.  Public school teachers are not able to hand-select their own students, social workers, nurses and doctors have to treat everyone, and politicians have a duty to all of their fellow citizens.

For example, when poor test scores are solely blamed on teachers that causes a chain reaction.  This places more pressure on educators in addition to the government standards, expectations, rules, and challenges already in existence.  This thoughtless and/or strident disregard for other factors affecting student learning negates facts, details, and evidence necessary to analyze to forge solutions.  Ironically, this is the same party of individuals that has great concern for the influences of pop culture, media, drugs, divorce, and violence.  As conservative scholar Robert Bork noted in Slouching Towards Gomorrah, "Large chunks of the moral life of the United States, major features of its culture, have disappeared altogether, and more are in the process of extinction.  These are being, or already have been, replaced by new modes of conduct, ways of thought, and standards of morality that are unwelcome to many of us." 

Yet, some individuals do not connect the dots between school performance and these social-emotional issues.  Many politicians are willing though to beat the drum of performance pay.  There is a defiance and outright resistance to connect the dots between the culture war, challenges in communities, wellness of families and the grades and scores of students.  Pop culture, media, drugs, divorce, and violence do affect children.  All the bonus money in the world for teachers will not fix that circumstance.

Teachers, social workers, nurses, doctors, and politicians are not able to turn away their "customers".  As each year and decade pass by standards, expectations, and rules change for these fields in order to "improve the crisis".  Professionals in these fields are then called into meetings by their administrators.  In these meetings their bosses tell them what to do, give them training on the latest strategies, fads, and they are asked to brainstorm other solutions.  

Diet is a factor in student learning and it is not a big leap to see how in a school bureaucracy banning certain foods is proposed.  Will banning cookies and cupcakes from classroom parties end the challenges in education?  No, we all can agree on that.  Rather than seeing the ban as a Nazi act, we need to see it as a reaction in an absurd situation.  Rather than complaining about a food ban, rather than complaining about government overreach, rather that demanding the government get out of my personal business, we need to drop the expectations.  Having expectations is a dangerous game.  Instead of spending oodles of time bashing food bans, bashing teachers, and roaring over the culture wars, we must act.

Feed your children well and they will likely not be overweight.  As David S. Ludwig, MD, PhD stated, “Overeating doesn't make us fat.  The process of becoming fat makes us overeat.  In other words, hunger and overeating are the consequences of an underlying problem.  Follow a simple lifestyle prescription focused on enjoyable physical activities, sleep, and stress relief to improve metabolism and support permanent behavior change.”  Give your children tools and teach them right from wrong and they will know how to navigate pop culture, media, and drugs.  Choose a good spouse and show your children a good marriage and you will help society at large.  That is much better approach than carrying an eternal flame of hate for teachers.  Although, arguably more challenging than having absurd expectations for teachers, placing ever greater demands on them, and then complaining about the outcome.  Yet, the lure of eating cookies, candy, and cake can be more appetizing than facing this reality.  

The cycle of culture wars and political ping pong is difficult to break.  It is not easy for politicians to negatively criticize the same people they wish to get votes from for election.  That goes for presidents, school board members, state assemblymen, ministers, and others.  It is far easier to blame state test results on too many bad teachers than to hold up a mirror to society.  Thomas Dye and Harmon Zeigler highlighted this political gamesmanship in The Irony of Democracy, "Examples of narrowly self-serving elite behavior abound. Politicians resort to divisive, appeals or antagonism..while knowing these tactics undermine mass confidence in national leadership."  Thus, the next time you hear a politician, TV host, or radio personality blame the state of education on too many bad teachers or food policies, ask them for the statistics, the proof, the numbers.  The truth. 

Parental aspirations for their children has a larger impact on student learning than feedback from teachers, study skills, homework, testing, and teacher education.  (Hattie)  Focusing on efforts to keep candy in school is not the most helpful act we can do with our time.  Focusing our efforts to provide the best of homes for children, the best meals, and the best version of ourselves is the sweetest thing we can do.

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Credits:  Image courtesy of [everydayplus] at,, Professor John Hattie, foto76, Bork, Robert H. Slouching towards Gomorrah: Modern Liberalism and American Decline. ReganBooks, 2003, David S. Ludwig, MD, PhD, Dye, Thomas R., and L. Harmon Zeigler. The Irony of Democracy: An Uncommon Introduction to American Politics. 1972.

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