Keep the Ministry of Education in the business of education, not parenting

Lambton County, Opinion — By on September 13, 2011 at 9:45 pm

OPINION
By MATT McEACHRAN

“At this point in time, we will only be having one Food Day a month to comply with new Government Food Regulations.”

That’s the statement that greeted me on my son’s hot lunch order form he brought home shortly before the last school year ended. Now that September is here, new regulations kick in across the province, putting a stop to weekly hot dog days, parent volunteers, happy kids at lunch time and other vile things that are so wrong with the school system.

But wait a minute—since when does the government get to tell me what my kids are going to eat for lunch? 

New government regulations about how many chicken nuggets my son can have at school for lunch?  There’s no way this can be true . . . is there?

Yes way.  A call to the local school board trustee confirmed that the Ministry of Education has a new “School Food and Beverage” policy in place, and schools are now only allowed a maximum of 10 days per school year for “unhealthy” foods like pizza, chicken nuggets, hotdogs, etc.

(Wait a minute…..new ideas….Ministry of Education.  Hmmmm….if this new policy was thought up by the same smart people that came up with the new report cards, then I’m not interested. But I digress…)

My children’s school, which had parents volunteer to run a very popular hot lunch day every Thursday, has now been ordered by the local school board to shut down operations, with the exception of once a month.    

The policy only covers food sold at school, not food brought from home. Yet.

This sounds like a policy one might find in North Korea, not Sarnia-Lambton.  To paraphrase Homer Simpson, “I feel like I’m living in a cuckoo clock.”  Does the Ministry of Education really feel that Ontario parents are completely incapable of making healthy choices for their children?

If a parent doesn’t want their child to have pizza for lunch on Thursday, you simply don’t return the order form with any money.  End of story.  Where’s the problem, Ministry?

It’s reminiscent of Scott Reid’s famous “beer and popcorn” remark during the 2006 federal election.  Rather than fund a national daycare, the Oppostion proposed giving the money directly to parents who could make their own choice for childcare.  Mr. Reid, who was Paul Martin’s director of communication, considered that notion too risky, worrying that we simpleton parents would blow the money on beer and popcorn.

This theory that many government elites like Scott Reid and apparently the Ministry of Education have, is that the taxpayers of this country are too incompetent for our own good, and thus, they—the gifted government—need to step in an make these decisions for us. It’s for our own good you see.

It's time parents put a stop to this. Are a few lunches a big deal in the overall scheme of things?  No.  But what is a big deal is the Ministry of Education taking decision-making authority away from parents.

What’s next? Are they going to count the number of fruits and vegetables coming to school in lunch boxes?  If someone wants to send their child to school with pizza for lunch every day, that’s their right as a parent.  I may not feel it's overly healthy, but then again, maybe the pancakes and syrup little Billy eats for breakfast aren’t the healthiest, or maybe Suzie’s mom smokes in their house, and maybe Eve’s dad drives too fast.

The point is, of course, that healthy and nutrition aren't so easy to define.  It’s a decision that’s best left where it rightly belongs, with the parents.

There’s another fact that the Ministry of Education is missing here.  The decision-making ability of humans, like many facets of the mind, is like a muscle.  The less one uses it, the weaker it gets.  It's mind boggling to see that not a single genius from the Ministry of Education thought through the fact that by taking the choice away from parents, we weaken parents' abilities to make decisions, and certainly further weaken parental involvement with their child and school.   Not a lot, perhaps, by why take a step in the wrong direction, even if it is only a small one?

On the Ministry’s website the flashy module they put together to explain this new regulation to us dumb parents has the nerve to say “We believe our students want to make healthy choices.”  Really?  So how did the Ministry help them….by taking their choices away? 

Would someone please tell me how taking kids choices away helps them make better choices?  I don’t get it, but then again I’m one of those dumb parents from whom the Ministry is trying to save our kids.

The bottom line is Ontario parents continue to be shut out of their children’s school decisions by government elite who think they know better. Cancelling hot lunches to teach us healthier eating is only the latest example.  If you want some say in your child’s education, contact your local school council president and your local school board trustee. Let them know we may be dumb enough to vote in this government that keeps taking our rights away, but we are still smart enough to decide whether our children can have pizza for lunch.

Perhaps it’s time the Ministry of Education stuck to their job….education.  Leave the parenting to the parents.  

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1 Comment

  1. Melissa Snider says:

    Good points Matt! It is about time that someone brought this to light. May I also point out that the hot lunches were a fairly sizeable source of fundraising for our school and so once again either the children will not be receiving the benefits of this program, or the parents will be forced to pay for the budgets that the hot lunches used to cover.
    Government cutbacks to our school systems have resulted in parents paying for nearly everything (remember the old days when the school supplied luxuries such as pencils and kleenex?) and now they want to take away the few funding sources that are still allowed. The grade eights have been able to fund their “grad” trip with bake sales that occurred throughout the year. They now have to find alternate sources of funding since the only day we can run them is on hot lunch days and parents (rightly so) are complaining that it is too much all in one day.
    I happen to know several parents who have children in schools in Lambton County who have had their children come home hungry because the teachers have gone through their lunch and taken out all the items that they deemed inappropriate. Who’s way of thinking says that a) I as a parent don’t know what is best for my child and b) that it is better for a child to go hungry than to eat that food that was sent with them. The new guidelines are so strict that the chocolate milk that the schools sell almost had to be removed because it was so close to not meeting the requirements. The whole program is ridiculous! Let parents parent their children.

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