How much control should government bureaucrats have over your children?
Two days ago, Sara Burrows wrote a story for the Carolina Journal (a publication of the free-market John Locke Foundation) reporting that North Carolina officials deemed a preschool girl’s packed lunch inadequate, so they fed her chicken nuggets instead. That story (as revised yesterday) states:
A preschooler at West Hoke Elementary School ate three chicken nuggets for lunch Jan. 30 because the school told her the lunch her mother packed was not nutritious.
The girl’s turkey and cheese sandwich, banana, potato chips, and apple juice did not meet U.S. Department of Agriculture guidelines, according to the interpretation of the person who was inspecting all lunch boxes in the More at Four classroom that day.
Two of North Carolina’s members of Congress wrote a letter to Tom Vilsack of the U.S. Department of Agriculture stating: “This unfortunate and absolutely unnecessary event exemplifies the very definition of ‘government overreach’ and further perpetuates a growing reason of why the American people continue to hold less and less faith in our government.”
When I spoke with Burrows’s editor Rick Henderson by phone this afternoon, he said details about the story continue to emerge; “It’s evolving as we speak,” he said. But regardless of the additional details that eventually come to light, it is already clear that the story represents ridiculous overreach by bureaucrats.
Just from the perspective of diet, the action was ludicrous. According to Burrows, state officials require that school lunches meet “USDA guidelines,” meaning that “lunches must consist of one serving of meat, one serving of milk, one serving of grain, and two servings of fruit or vegetables, even if the lunches are brought from home.” Such guidelines totally disregard parental concern over types of meat offered, how various dishes are prepared and with what fats, possible health issues regarding dairy and grain, times of day when a child eats different types of food, and so on.
However, the story should prompt a broader rethinking of government schools as such. While many parents are justifiably upset that bureaucrats try to shove the “right” kinds of foods down their children’s throats, often those same parents allow the same bureaucrats to fill their children’s heads with the “right” kinds of ideas.
If we care about the physical and intellectual well-being of children, we should fundamentally rethink the practice of turning over the care of our children to government bureaucrats.
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