A public school in Chicago has put in place a new policy that increases the role the State plays in the lives of young Americans. The Chicago Tribune reports the school no longer allows kids to pack their own lunches without a documented medical excuse. The reason? To save children from the irresponsible dietary decisions of their parents. Meanwhile, in Florida, State Legislatures are said to be close to passing a law that would ban saggy pants. Perhaps “E Pluribus Unum” should be replaced with “Tutto nello Stato, niente al di fuori dello Stato.”
Elsa Carmona, the principal at Little Village Academy and person responsible for the lunch ban, claims she is only looking to do what is best for her students. “Nutrition wise, it is better for the children to eat at the school. It’s about the nutrition and the excellent quality food that they are able to serve (in the lunchroom).” It seems the kids may have a different opinion on the quality of the school provided lunches. The Tribune reports that, “During a recent visit to the school, dozens of students took the lunch but threw most of it in the garbage uneaten. Though CPS has improved the nutritional quality of its meals this year, it also has seen a drop-off in meal participation among students, many of whom say the food tastes bad.”
As typical with heavy-handed government policy, an arbitrary regulation leads to tragic unforeseen consequences. Kids who don’t like the school’s signature slop are reduced to going hungry or risk any disciplinary measures that are included with the new policy.
Though many would argue that the freedom to eat what you would like is more important than defending the ability to sag, the likely to be implemented Florida law does more than simply require violators to pull up their pants. A student caught out of code could face in-school-suspension, an indication that legislatures place a higher value on students confirming to arbitrary law than actual intellectual enlightenment. Even this punishment doesn’t go far enough for State Senator Gary Siplin, who proposed a bill in 2005 that would have made the possession of sagging pants a second-degree misdemeanor. Possible punishment? Up to $50 in fines and ten days in jail. A choice of fashion leading to incarceration – the State at work.
This is the progressive ideal in action, force individuals into the institutions of government (public schools) and then use those services to regulate their actions. Students will eat what the State wants them to eat. Students will dress how the State wants them to dress. Students will learn what the State wants them to learn. And all for the good of those students! “It makes a lot of sense to me. A lot of kids will be able to do a lot more with two hands,” says one government advocate for the pants law.
These incidents are not without some beneficial results. As is so often the case, totalitarian rule sparks open rebellion. In Chicago we are treated with the wonderful sight of students discovering the righteous cause of liberty. I give you Fernando Dominguez, a new personal hero of mine. The seventh-grader and new freedom fighter is fighting the dietary oppression. “Who thinks the lunch is not good enough?” asks our young rebel in both English and Spanish. The question is followed by the chants of his supporters, “We should bring our own lunch! We should bring our own lunch! We should bring our own lunch!” I can’t help but smile at the image.
Another student articulates the logic of liberalism. Says Yesenia Gutierrez, “They’re afraid that we’ll all bring in greasy food instead of healthy food and it won’t be as good as what they give us at school. It’s really lame. If we could bring in our own lunches, everyone knows what they’d bring. For example, the vegetarians could bring in their own veggie food.”
Government once again proves to be the best advocate for its opposition by overstepping any rational boundary. Students have been joined by their parents in criticizing the ban on outside lunches. Said one parent, “Some of the kids don’t like the food they give at our school for lunch or breakfast. So it would be a good idea if they could bring their lunch so they could at least eat something.”
And asked what they would prefer for lunch, the students demonstrate the unique preferences of individuals. Seventh Grader Ashley Valdez wants Subway. Second-grader Gerardo Ramos says he would “bring a banana, orange and some grapes.”Fourth-grader Eric Sanchez? “I would bring a juice and like a sandwich.” And perhaps the most honest of the bunch, second-grader Julian Ruiz responded, “Sometimes I would bring the healthy stuff, but sometimes I would bring Lunchables.”
I have often been critical of the quality of education in public schools; inadvertently, the actions of overreaching government officials may give these affected students an important lesson – the value of individual freedom.