"I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power." - Thomas Jefferson 1820

"There is a growing technology of testing that permits us now to do in nanoseconds things that we shouldn't be doing at all." - Dr. Gerald Bracey author of Rotten Apples in Education

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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Message from Educational Guru Cookie Monster: "C" is for Cookie...not for Cauliflower.

We recently blogged about the government's questionable intrusion into public schools' nutritional decisions. Included in this piece was the intrusion of the government in private industry as well. The day of complimentary toys in Happy Meals may soon be over in San Francisco if the meal doesn't meet the city's nutritional guidelines. It doesn't matter that the government isn't buying the meal for the child, apparently the city believes it should step in to discourage the parents from buying the meal as a Happy Meal will "reward" the child for eating a meal it doesn't find nutritious. The city wants to take on responsibility previously delegated to parents for making choices for children and thwart marketing decisions by private industry.

We've documented how government's role in food choices affect both the private and public sectors. Enter the sweets controversy in Pennsylvania. Sarah Palin made an appearance at a parochial school in Plumstead, PA and she mentioned the proposed guidelines under consideration by the Pennsylvania Board of Education:

Sarah Palin is calling Pennsylvania's plans to issue new guidelines limiting the number of sweets allowed in classrooms: "a nanny state run amok". Palin raises a larger point: Government intervention in school nutrition programs continues to be a point of contention in Congress. No stranger to controversy, Palin told the crowd she is hoping to spark conversation. "I wanted these kids to bring home the idea to their parents for discussion," said Palin. "Who should be making the decisions what you eat, school choice and everything else? Should it be government or should it be the parents? It should be the parents."

The Board of Education responded:

...on Wednesday, (the) Pennsylvania State Department of Education says Palin misrepresented the nutritional guidelines that the state board of education is considering.

They assert that there will be no "cookie ban" as she stated and that they will not mandate a limit on school parties.

It does sound like they are strongly suggesting, however, that parents make healthier options available and schools consider consolidating birthday parties to one per month.

There may arguments on the specifics of this "guideline" the Board will consider, but the core of the issue is the government regulating food choices for children. I was raised in a school system that encouraged critical thinking. If we take all choices away from children, push only one agenda into their daily curriculum and life, do we expect when they leave the system that they will be able to make good decisions independently? Why aren't we teaching our children good nutritional choices through curriculum and expect them to make informed choices by themselves? Could this be teaching children to develop the trait of personal responsibility?

It is easier to withhold non-nutritional food and parties from children to assert control over their eating habits. It's harder to teach and help children develop critical thinking skills. But you can't control children forever. It is our role as parents to teach, supervise and let children decide actions in their lives; by doing so, you are preparing them for life as adults when they have to make their own daily decisions. When and if children make decisions that are dangerous to them, that's when we step in as parents. Are having cookies and parties at school at that danger level?

Apparently the government believes this is a danger level of enormous proportion (pardon the pun):

Palin does raise a broader issue. Obesity is one of this country's biggest health problems, but legislation comes with a price. In August, the U.S. Senate passed legislation expanding children's access to more nutritious meals at a cost estimated at $4.5-billion.

This is an example of the choice architects at work as Fat Police. Cookie Monster is probably not too happy with this decision. Watch him sing. He's much more fun to be around than the Fat Police.

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