Saturday, May 31, 2014

Kathleen Parker Sounds Reasonable. Why, Then, Is She Wrong?

I could have just said, "Good luck, Michelle Obama, healthy lunches is
a good idea, but where's the fun in that?

In WaPo syndicated columnist Kathleen Parker's latest tome, she takes on what's wrong with Michelle Obama's Let's Move! teenage health initiative. Parker's thrust here is that advocating for healthy school lunches is nice and all -- "Don't get me wrong" -- it's just fascist -- "Which I don't actually believe, but gastro-fascism is a cool term." I'm paraphrasing here, but getting straight to the sub-text. Parker means to declare that having a good idea is great, but don't do it all or you risk being ineffective at best and openly mocked and condemned at worst.

This is classic conservative concern trolling here; like all "reasonable" conservatives, she doesn't want Michelle Obama to succeed in a vital job even though she admires her for her efforts. Parker is also saying "Americans are too stupid to live, anyway." Their kids will throw out the healthy lunches because they don't taste good. So why bother?
But, as is often the case with mammoth federal programs, one size does not fit all. Many school districts have inadequate funding to meet the new nutrition standards and have had to borrow from educational programs, in some cases shutting them down.
Moreover, the kids detest the food and are tossing their lunches, so to speak, into the dumpster. Some school districts report having to purchase or lease more trash cans to accommodate the extra garbage, increasing their waste-collection costs as well.
Hence the "why bother?" rhetoric. Thanks, Michelle, but the kids are going to throw your good intentions in the dumpster.

Wait, there's more. Parker gets to the place that all the concern-trolling conservative pundits go -- yep, I'm talking to you Ross Douthat and David Brooks -- and that's "if the parents loved their kids we wouldn't need the federal government to handle the loving." Awwwh, how sweet...
We can’t all have a chef or send our children to private schools with meatier lunches, as the Obamas do. But we can feed our children for less trouble and money than some think. Maybe the first lady can modify her message along with our menus: Cook for your kids and they’ll grow smart and strong.
Not to get too carried away, but food, you know, is love.
Like I said, how sweet. Here's the deal, though, soul-sister Parker: TONS OF PARENTS SEND THEIR KIDS TO SCHOOL HUNGRY AND WITHOUT LUNCH MONEY OR A BAGGED LUNCH. There, you made me shout.

Federal lunch programs don't exist by accident. They fill a gaping hole, and making them more healthy isn't a matter of "compromise on the tortillas and the fried chicken for fuck's sake." I've spent years teaching in public schools and watched kids eat gargantuan cinnamon rolls dripping with white-sugar frosting at morning break, later watching the same kids have a slice of pizza and a large fries and Coke for lunch. And these are the kids with the lunch money. For the rest, it's "Don't let 'em eat cake," except that here's where the federal lunch program comes in.

Kathleen Parker knows exactly why she feels better after lunch because she knows how to buy a healthy salad so you don't have a monster sugar crash an hour later.

It's just more of that good-for-me-but-not-for-thee attitude copping with a dash of if-the-poors-won't-feed-their kids-then-why-should-we? It's a love thing, don't you know? No, it's moralizing concern-trolling, and it's utter bullshit dressed in I-don't-feel-this-way-but-if-the-poor-can't-get-out-of-bed-then-why-should-blah-blah-blah.

So their kids are healthy and become better learners, Parker. It ain't rocket science, true, but it does take compassion, something moralizers rarely have in sufficient supply.

Wait a minute: The peaches in sugar syrup, that's fruit, right?
And the 1% chocolate milk is low fat, right? Okay, then!

Note on how editorial boards work their schtick. Kathleen Parker's actual article is entitled "Michelle Obama’s ‘Let’s Move!’ goes too far." The tease title on the front page is "Michelle Obama's disastrous program." Nowhere in Parker's op-ed does she imply in the slightest that the program is a disaster. Somebody, a Fred Hiatt or one of his minions, decided, let's put Michelle Obama and disaster in the same sentence. So there! Sheesh... (I did a little bit of that, too, calling one of Hiatt's assistants a "minion." See how that works?)

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