School Lunches and Tyranny

An odd combination of themes in the title, don't you think?  Yet, that is exactly what is at play at West Hoke Elementary School in the town of Raeford, North Carolina these days.  A disturbing article proffered by Matt Willoughby of the John W. Pope Civitas Institute has highlighted a school mandate in Hoke County which has been compared to a measure reminiscent of schools in Communist China.  The incident is centered upon the actions of a government inspector from the Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale-Revised program at the FPG Child Development Institute at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill -- and a four-year-old girl.  If the aforementioned government title seems unduly arcane, you are in good company.

The recent events described by Willoughby give reason to shudder at the creeping authority we allow the State to educate and raise our children in exchange for two-income families, or increasingly, single-parent families.  This program in Hoke County, North Carolina is representative of state and federally funded meal programs in public schools throughout the country.  These programs were instituted long ago, ostensibly to ensure that no child went unnecessarily malnourished.  As with all government programs, the budgetary discretion has increased, personnel managing the programs have grown in numbers, and there are new bureaucratic kingdoms within departments of education that insist upon perpetual growth and more regulatory power.

What this superficially benevolent program is doing is exercising its bureaucratic imperative.  The result of its muscle flexing is the erosion of liberty.

The statist will laughingly ask:  "How does one extrapolate loss of liberty from school lunch inspections?"  The answer is as simple as it is obvious.  It is no business of the State to inspect children's lunches, brought from home, under the pretense of nutritional improvement.  The State is not the arbiter of what children may or may not eat.  If a parent wants to send her child to school with a squirrel sandwich, that's none of the State's concern whatsoever.  The exasperatingly tired old rant of the Left for decades has been, "We want government out of our bedrooms!"  Fine.  The intent of their war-cry has been narrowed to pertain to protection of homosexuality and abortion rights.  But, where is their concern in other areas of government interference?  Where is the outcry for, "We want government out of our kitchens!"?  What the Left refuses to understand is that the coercive power of government over one area of activity means the de facto loss of liberty in all others.

Notice in the story that the child was not "forced" to consume the State-provided meal, whether in addition to or in replacement of her lunch from home.  She was, however, compelled to accept it.  It did not matter that her mother had provided a perfectly wholesome meal for her daughter.  The State said the lunch from home was insufficient.  The girl was only four years old.  Imagine, if you can, the fearsome and imposing intimidation an adult can have over the psyche of a tiny child.  Imagine, then, that this authority figure has told you that the lunch given to you by your mother was not good enough; and, that you must eat what the school (i.e. government) gives you.  Let that sink in for a moment.  The State, at least in this one case, is already establishing its supra-paternal power of authority over a child that in all respects should be at home with the care and protection of her mother.  The State is asserting its authority over the child in defiance of parental rights.  Furthermore, the premise of the debate has been falsely framed by the State.  What if the child had a lunch of dry toast and a slice of cheese?  Is the next step in this process a visit to this girl's home by the Division of Child and Family Services for a broad-based audit of her living conditions?  That we willingly allow the State to be the final determining authority of our children's diet has alarming implications that far exceed nutritional concerns.  In the case of this young girl in the Hoke County public schools, we are witnessing a purposeful usurpation of the State over the parent in the raising of children.

Note, too, that the mother has made valid arguments as to why she does not include vegetables in her daughter's lunch box.  Almost any parent of a four-year-old child understands the difficulty of convincing young ones to eat vegetables.  Again, this is of no concern to the State.  The State will confiscate private wealth for the purchase of vegetables for school lunches.  The children will be given chicken nuggets, milk, and vegetables, courtesy of the State -- regardless of whether the children consume those items or not.  Additionally, the parent(s) will be compelled to purchase the extra meal for their children.  If the parent cannot afford the cost, there will be ancillary programs provided by the munificent State to subsidize those meals.

Rightfully so, many of us are looking for political relief from the accelerated descent into the horrors of statism.  A cleansing of the White House and Congress, particularly the Senate, can go a long way in stemming the tide of increased governmental authority over our daily lives.  But, I caution: the incremental growth of government power exemplified by this school lunch incident did not happen overnight.  It has been a century-long process which began in the early 1900s and is accelerating at a geometric pace today.  Furthermore, the tyranny of statism is not confined to the federal government.  While the federal government is the final authority and power behind growing tyranny, state and local governments have been all too complicit.  With the lure of federal treasury largesse, states, counties, and cities are co-opted daily into toeing the federal line of regulatory mandates and freedom-suppressing laws.

It is the natural condition of man to want to live free.  Paradoxically, it is also a natural condition for man to impose tyranny against his fellow man at any opportunity.  Those who would govern us in these United States are no different.  We, as the liberated and free individuals the Founding Fathers envisioned, must make deliberate choices every day to identify, repudiate, and fight the repressive machinations of our elected and unelected officials.  It can start in the lunch room of a little four-year-old girl.