Feb 192012
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You thought I was distracted, eh?

The cruise ship that swallowed Venice

Two stories grabbed my attention this week, no mean feat as we try to manage all the details of the upcoming trip. Even though it seems to be warming up in Venice, we still may have to worry about being run over by a cruise ship. Those big ships which seem to have trouble staying upright in Italian waters dock a mere five minute walk from our apartment. I’m not going to worry just now although it may be something  to study after I get there. Venice has survived a great many challenges since it’s founding. It can surely last a few more weeks.

Venice: Cruise Ships Are Killing Us 

No, today, I can’t stop thinking about school lunches. I attended public schools through high school, never giving any thought to why they existed or if they made any sense. Sure, there were some private schools around dedicated, as I saw it, to Catholics and rich people because neither group wanted their kids associating with the hoi polloi. I could understand the appeal for one group. The rich kid schools had better facilities and more pretty girls. The Catholic schools had nuns and that seemed weird to me.

So I grew up and got my formative training in the peoples schools giving and taking with kids from every social class. I’m not complaining. What I never recognized was the danger for education when government runs the show. When I was a kid , we hardly noticed the government. What government there was seemed pretty benign during my childhood because it was local government – a school district that had it’s own tax base run by people I knew who ran for election every so often. There was a bit of state coordination but it was pretty much local control. This was long before the creation of the Federal Department of Education.

But I digress! 

Well, I could probably go on for days about what’s gone wrong with education since I was a kid but that’s not where I am headed today. Somewhere along the way, somebody decided that it would be good if the School Districts got into the food business, just so their students would be able to get a hot meal. It didn’t seem like such a bad idea but that’s what government is good at. Taking a not so bad idea and making it a disaster. But that’s only the beginning of the story.

Schoolchildren eating hot school lunches made ...

Image via Wikipedia

School lunches were always a joke for us kids. There might be a few dishes that were really good but by and large, they were just like the weather. You had to put up with them. Most of the time, my parents bought the lunches. It was easier than packing the lunchbox, but once in a while, I’d take a box lunch just for fun and in third grade I attended a school with no cafeteria so I took a lunch every day. I know about home packed lunches,

These lunches were a sandwich (typically bologna or peanut butter and jelly), some chips, a thermos of milk, sometimes- but not always an apple or banana- and a candy bar. That’s what we considered a healthy lunch back in the day. There might be variations- a strange mother might include carrots or celery which would likely end up in the trash. Somehow, we grew up healthy in spite of substandard nutrition by the standards of today’s Federal government. These days, my parents would be serving time for child abuse.


So reading about the lunch box police in North Carolina makes me wonder what the government is up to. Just because it is convenient to provide lunches in public schools, how does that make it the job of government to tell us what to feed our kids. It seems in North Carolina, it takes three levels of government to do this and they can’t seem to decide how to distribute the duties. They are apparently all tripping over each other in their eagerness to tell parents what to do.



What is a federal employee doing inspecting lunch boxes in West Hoke Elementary School and what the heck does a lunch box have to do with education? The education system is unable to deliver education and officials complain that they don’t have enough money. Yet all the while, they waste tons of it inspecting lunches and challenging the responsibilities of parents. No wonder Johnny can’t read.

If the school districts fail with their prime objective, teaching kids to read, write and take their place as educated citizens, who told them to become food police? And even if there is some evidence that food police are needed, why in the world would anyone want the education system to do it? Should there be some competence requirement? These days, what government is competent to tell anyone what to do and when did government diktats become the American way. Where is that fiercely independent American spirit? We don’t need government officials in our kitchens and we don’t need them to tell us what our kids should have in their lunchboxes.

I’m concerned!

I’m getting damn concerned about government officials providing any services because they can’t seem to color within the lines we give them and dammit it is still government by the people and for the people – not government to the people. We did the best we could to keep the California State School monopoly from ruining our kids. We were naive. In fact we didn’t understand how the world of education had changed until it was too late to choose plan B. If I had it to do all over again, I would quit my day job, go on welfare and home school my kids. That would be the only possible way to get a real education for my kids and some value from the taxes I pay.

Get the government out of our lunchboxes! Don’t you agree?


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Ralph is the inspiration for Cantankerous Old Coots and is our Grand Duke of Cantankerousness

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