More on the junk food in schools debate

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In the comments thread Al Bundy has some kindly advice for parents who want to ban junk food from schools. Nic White says that kids should be able to eat what they like, while Andrew Norton and Michael Warby think that the real problem is that governments are running the schools.

As "an unashamedly fat bastard" Al Bundy, has a suggestion "for all the handwringers collectively tut-tutting over obesity". They should "kindly fuck off." But wait… there’s more:

…you’ve got the Arthurs of the world frantically trying to ban unhealthy food in schools. And you can probably pull out health statistics showing just how much fat bastards like me are to blame for, well, everything smokers and drinkers used to be responsible for.

But guess what, puritan. You condemn Donnelly for trying to stuff the ‘immoral’ into the ‘illegal’ category, but think that it’s just fine to move the ‘bad for you’ category into the ‘illegal’.

Yeah, yeah, I know you’re not arguing for criminalisation, but neither is Donnelly. For the sake of my argument, wanting to ‘ban’ something is just as good.

Here’s a tip to all for all you leftist inclusivists who so want to embrace every sexual, racial and social minority – Go hug a fat person.

You might not get your arms all the way round, but you could find that under the sweat and double chins we have rather more depth than you might think.

Al’s got a point. American researchers Rebecca Puhl and Kelly D. Brownell report that obese individuals suffer from bias and discrimination. No surprises there. Many people assume that if you’re fat you’re stupid, lazy, and lacking in self discipline. There are all kinds of nonsensical prejudices out there in the community – anti-fat attitudes are one of them.

Nic White says that "I’d be on the side of letting the kids make their own decision." I’m not sure I’d agree. If I had a tween there are some decisions I wouldn’t want them to be making on their own. Would they like to stay home and watch tv instead of going to school today? Probably. Would they like to eat french fries for lunch every day? Maybe. Would they accept a lift home from their best friend’s drug-impaired big brother? I hope not. Children, especially young children, are not the fully fledged consumers economic liberals had in mind when they theorized about market freedom. As Michael Warby says: "they are not yet adults and fully able to decide for themselves."

Al Bundy says "the government sure as hell doesn’t know any better than me what’s good for my kids." I have to say that the idea of bureaucrats deciding what children eat worries me. I never suggested that the government should be packing your kid’s lunch box or running the local supermarket. All I was saying was that school tuck shops shouldn’t be undermining choices parents make for their own children. If Al wants an argument he’ll have to work harder.

Andrew Norton says that "there is nothing wrong with [schools] banning things that are bad for kids" but there is something wrong with the government running schools. Michael Warby agrees. Warby thinks that the government should regulate schools but not own and run them. It’s an interesting idea. Economist John Quiggin isn’t sure private alternatives would be any better than the public system. But what would happen if schools had to compete for students in order to survive?

Also… See Nic White’s post on compulsory community service where he says: "Yes, let’s restrict choice and force people to do things that we think are good
for them, what a wonderful way to run a country."

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Nic White
2022 years ago

Obvious sarcasm there of course.

When kids are too young to make certain decisions, their parents act as a proxy. Im not opposed to the parents getting their kids to eat healthy if they cant do it themselves, but it is far from being the *government’s* place to legislate for health or anything else like that.

However, the government/school has a responsibility to provide education for the kids on such matters.

Michael Warby
2022 years ago

I teach at far too many schools to believe that public versus private schools is a distinction which distinguishes good from bad education.

The issue is more complicated than that. Schools are not properly held accountable for their performance because the body which should be setting processes for full public accountability is likely to be embarrassed by such a complete process (not because all public schools are bad, but some are).

For example, proper accountability should clearly include measures which measure student performance in a way which is comparable from year to year. This is not normal practice — hence tedious debates (because of the lack of firm data) about the quality, and changes in quality, of school graduates.

There is also a dramatic lack of innovation. Private schools tend to clone government schools plus a bit extra because that’s all they have to do. If one compares primary and secondary education with other service industries, the comparative technological and institutional stagnation is obvious. (Yes, they have computers in schoools, but comparatively, not so impressive.)

People sneer at the quality of American schools. That is easily the most socialist industry in the US. Quality problems are, after all, what one associates with socialist industry.

Put it another way. If Eddie McGuire said “I’ve got a great idea: Collingwood will take over the AFL, set the rules, appoint the AFL Board and the umpires”, people would say he was mad.

So, why do we educate most of our children under exactly such an arrangement?

Rafe
2022 years ago

A simiilar issue arose in a different context, namely swearing by footballers in English soccer that is transmitted into millions of homes for the benefit of young and old. Some headmasters wanted the league to crack down, in the interests of good taste but some cogent replies came through from a couple of coherent football managers who said it was up to the parents to take control and tell their kids what is acceptable and what is not, not for the league to take on the role of the parents and discipline the foul mouthed players. [I must say I have two mind about that, I thought the tennis players set a truly dreadful example which was almost instantly copied across the land by some young players.]
In the school situation this means that the parents should look after their children’s eating habits and let the schools do more or less what they like. Of course that means that the kids will eat what they like at school but I think the point is that parents have to be parents and not appoint the school as a proxy. Schools are asked to do far too many things in addition to just teaching stuff, what if we make it a bit simpler for them to do their prima facie job.

Molly Tashlin
15 years ago

If you look at the statistics, there is alot of obese kids. But it isn’t up to the school to change that.And if you did want to help obese kids, ever heard of excercising? I mean, a chocolate bar isn’t gonna kill you. And even if you take that step to ban junk food from schools, they’ll just take 5 steps and come to a store nearby and get junk food there. So you’re accomplishing nothing and lowering the school’s revenue they make from the vending machines. Also, what’s stopping kids from bringing junk food from home? No matter how you try, banning junk food isn’t the answer to solving obesity. It just isn’t going to work.