Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Ostensible Parenting

Parents are failing their children on an epic scale. A guitar hero buddy of mine in Cincinnati wrote a stellar blog piece about a year ago that detailed how “helicopter parents” are sheltering their kids from rejection and disappointment. Clearly that’s setting the stage for monumental disaster later in that child’s life when he realizes that the world is not made of sunshine and dancing unicorn dust. Girl Scout cookies don’t magically sell themselves and you actually have to try out for basketball teams. I’m no expert on parenting, but I’m a decent observer. And what I observe is ugly.

Many parents expect the public school system to raise their children. My brother in law is a counselor at a middle school in southern Utah. He has shared numerous stories of how parents refuse to take accountability for their misbehaving children and expect the school to handle the discipline and reform…as long as it doesn’t hurt little Timmy’s feelings. Parents also expect the school system to create intelligent, witty, creative, courteous kids that naturally turn into successful and motivated adults. News flash…the public school system is in place to ASSIST in the education of children. It is YOUR responsibility to actually teach and raise your kids. The system is there to provide proven and effective methods to present information to young people by adults that are knowledgeable and skilled communicators. Parents are there to make damn sure their kids understand the information given or, better yet, instill a hunger to MASTER the subject matter and have fun doing it. Schools don’t create scholars. Schools don’t make CEOs, professors, and presidents. Parents do.

I was sickened when I read this article today about New Mexico parents failing to pay their school lunch tab. Children whose parents are behind are being given a plain cheese sandwich, some fruit, and some milk instead of being given normal lunch like the kids whose parents are current. I need to bullet my points here, otherwise I’ll ramble:

1) I understand that times are hard. The recession blows.

2) It’s gut-wrenching for me to envision a sweet, timid 1st grader, like my son, being physically pulled from the lunch line and handed a white sack with a stale cheese sandwich and a mushy apple inside while his peers point and laugh. White sack = poor kid. That is the kind of public ridicule that will instantly and forever damage that kid’s self image. His peers will always remember him as one of the “white-baggers” from 1st grade, just like Chas remembers me for my crappy shoes that slid all over the basketball court…25 years ago.

3) It is pathetic that parents don’t have to share in their children’s shame. Shielding yourselves with your own kids is disgusting, intended or not.

4) It is commendable that the school district is trying to make sure that each child has something to eat for lunch. The system might be flawed and not well planned, but the effort is there. Hunger is a verb that most all of us will never fully know. Being hungry is one thing…hunger is quite another. It motivates people to steal and kill. Hunger sucks, and I applaud the district for fighting it.

5) It is commendable that the school system is holding parents accountable and not allowing them to get everything for nothing.

6) It is sad that this ^^ comes at the expense of children.

The school system is on track to lose $300,000 this year on unpaid student lunch bills alone. That is six times the amount in 2006. In order to cover the debt, the schools will have to pull from other departments in the budget since not even the federal lunch program money given, from OUR tax dollars, can cover. So all students will suffer from the inability and ineptitude of bad parents.

I fully understand that there is poverty in the world and that parents are struggling to feed their kids. My “bad parents” claim might seem harsh. I counter that with the following question. If your child were NOT in school and were home for the summer, would you expect him to starve or would you find a way, no matter how creative, to feed him? Easy. You’d feed the kid. Now, take that same creativity, throw it in a lunch box and send it to school with the boy.

In my opinion the solution is simple. Completely do away with school lunch programs. I sell cookies to school districts and buying groups all over the country. It is astounding how much time, effort, and MONEY is put into child nutrition. That shouldn’t be their job! You don’t need a cookie that has no fat or sugar and tastes like cardboard. What you need is to tell Timmy to turn off the Playstation, get off his lardass, and mix in some kickball.

It is not the school’s responsibility to teach, raise, discipline, AND feed our children. By doing away with the program you put all children on a level playing field. If all the kids are bringing white sacks to school, no one will care if one houses a cheese sandwich or a cheesesteak. The sack itself is the equalizer. When kids “forget” their lunch, call the parents. If it persists, call in the cavalry. Get DCFS involved. For the truly willing and CARING, there are programs out there to make sure your kids don’t go hungry. The public school system, however, is NOT one of those programs.


ZAC said...

My husband and I are firm believers in the proverb: "spare the rod, spoil the child." Of course, you can teach a child sternly with love and that's what we try to do but we're not all about our kids acting like monkeys in public. As for school lunches, Why not stop giving lunch to children whose parents haven't paid.PERIOD. It's the schools fault they are in the red. Buck up. Some parents can afford the convenience = let them if they are responsible parties.

The Barker Family said...

I completely see ur frustration with the irresponsibility of those parents. . but do you really think that doing away with school lunch altogether is a good idea? I only say this because there are those cases where lunch at school may be the only meal that some kids get that day. . I think I'm torn on this one.

Tyler said...

I'm not torn at all. Schools are there to help parents educate their children. They are not welfare houses. I'm a firm believer in welfare and in feeding the hungry, but it shouldn't be done at school.

The $300,000 in costs related to unpaid lunches has to be recovered somehow. It will be pulled from other programs. How would you feel if your school district did away with its music, arts, or athletic programs because their budget was needed to cover unpaid lunch bills?

By eliminating the program, in my opinion, the line is more clearly drawn.

Mandy said...

I agree and disagree on this situation. You can't starve a kid- he will actually learn better full. However, you are correct in saying it is a learning, not eating institution and I would cut lunch instead of arts/sports/music anyday. You're right- you would feed them if they were at home.

Tyler said...

I agree. You CAN'T starve a kid. The entire point is, whose responsibility is it to make sure that doesn't happen? Remember that with responsibility comes accountability. My firm stance is that the responsibility and accountability lie squarely on the shoulders of the parents and the school needs to be taken entirely out of the equation.

Snyder-mom said...

I agree with your point of view, however I would hope that someone might be able to come up with a solution that doesen't include doing away with the whole school lunch program. I feel that school lunch is a lifesaver for some parents.
I don't have the answer, but I sure do hope someone can find a way to make it all work without the schools suffering, and without penalizing the parents that do take the responsibility of paying their lunch bills.

Tyler said...

I considered that Lisa. I even originally wrote a work-around involving point-of-sale purchases (like in high schools) where you paid on the spot for your meal. Same pricing, just a cash-in-hand approach. No billing, no invoicing. There would also, however, have to be something in place for those that can't afford it, i.e. government vouchers or credits. That's just the American system. The more I went down that path though the more I realized we'd be right back to where we are now...a full 360.

You give someone an inch, they take 6 feet of meat and cheese.

I'm afraid this is a Mr. Spock scenario as in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few." A couple bad apples will ruin the bushel. We can't start killing programs and pulling funding from EDUCATION to pay for lunches. It just doesn't make sense.

As always, this is entirely my opinion. I'm sure Sherri sees it differently. She's the one packing the lunches. I look at it from a business perspective and a "right vs. wrong no matter the cost" perspective, and I should probably be more sensitive to convenience.

Sister said...

I happen to know that in New Mexico it is extremely easy to qualify for food stamps etc. If these people are too poor for food, they will get food stamps and have food available for lunches. Their children will also qualify for free or discounted lunches. These parents are not those who are poverty stricken. They are too lazy to prepare a meal, and too irresponsible to pay their bills. I think a call to DCFS is appropriate after a warning or two.

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