Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The Fat Police and the Death of Personal Responsibility

Stacy has written a couple of posts over the past few days about how much she hates all varieties of soda. I too am not a fan of soda in general. I used to drink Mountain Dew by the gallon when I was in high school and college, but I started drinking water somewhere in there and now when I go back to soda it's hard because it really burns my throat. I'll still have an occasional red cream soda when Roxi and I do some shopping at her neighborhood Piggly Wiggly or mix a little RC Cola with some whiskey when my friend Nate and I are hanging out, but most of the time I am an exclusive water and orange juice guy. That being said, I don't fault someone for drinking soda and I certainly don't think that people should be stripped of the right to decide between a water or a Coke. Sadly in another loss in the war for personal responsibility, many state legislatures are considering passing laws banning the sale of sodas in schools.

The Bill Clinton Foundation has brokered a deal with soda companies to stop the sales of sodas in elementary and middle schools while offering only diet soda alternatives in high schools. Now this may seem harmless on the surface because this just affects kids and many consumer advocates have taken it upon themselves to protect everyone else's kids whenever they get the chance. But I just don't like the precedent this sets. It is no secret that there is a large movement in this country trying to demonize the sale of fattening and high calorie foods to children. The problem I have with this is that they are not out to affect a cultural change through education but rather through legislation.

The problem with most advocacy groups is that they begin their crusade with truly noble intentions, but they are almost always victims of their own success. Once they achieve their prescribed goal they rarely disband but rather narrow their focus and soldier on. I fear that this will be the end result of the "food police" making decisions for everyone else's children. And for the "it doesn't effect me" people, my response is, "Not yet." This will work it's way into the adult population. I don't really think that it is a stretch to expect calls for restricting the sales of soda to minors, moving to banning sales of soda in the workplace and then finally outlawing soda sales altogether. Sure that seems ridiculous, but many of these groups want to tax soda so much, you won't want to consume it. And if you aren't a soda drinker, there is something you like to eat or drink that will be targeted eventually. The Fat Police are here and they are rabidly working to save us all from ourselves. A Fat Tax is coming; it's only a matter of time.

UPDATE: To respond to Katie's comment and clarify my feelings on sodas in school, I do not intend to imply that kids should necessarily have them, I am saying that it should be parents and not any city, state or federal entity that makes this type of child rearing decision. I know that children will not always follow their parents' rules, but it the responsibility of parents to set those rules and dole out punishment. The government should not be in the business of raising children other than in cases of child abuse. Of course some advocacy groups would argue that allowing your children to have sodas amounts to child abuse. That is debatable, but I am the product of parents who allowed me and my brothers to drink sodas and we turned out very healthy. The point is, how can any government honestly be able to know what is best for everyone's kids? It's asinine. Furthermore, they will not stop with child advocacy. It will eventually spill over into advocacy over adults lives. Give them and inch, and the government will take a mile. I don't want to give up any more inches let alone a whole mile.


katielady said...

I don't think we had a coke machine in school until high school. That being said, I think you should not give kids a choice in what they drink. We had to drink milk or water in elem. school, and that was fine. Give them a choice of bad for you vs. good for you, and kids will almost always pick the bad one.

Bubba's Sis said...

We never had a Coke machine in the school until high school - it was milk or water for us, baby! We never had vending machines of any type in school until high school. And we had to walk to school in bare feet - up hill both ways!

I'm sure teachers are all for banning Cokes in the schools - sugar and caffeine don't always make for well-behaved students!

Stacy said...

While I have made it no secret that I have a distain for soda, I agree with Wes on how crazy it is to legislate such a thing. Perhaps advising schools against carrying soda would do something, but an all out ban seems a bit harsh. My kids do not consume soda, candy, or anything else of the sort. Perhaps I am a party pooper, but my kids beg me for raisins and oatmeal, I shit you not, while my brother's kids beg for soda and M&Ms. It is a precedent you set early, by the time your kids get to school, its too late.

roxanne said...

It's a free country.

But I certainly would not want to be stuck in a room with 30 11 year olds who were forced to sit in a desk for four hours after they'd all just consumed a dr pepper and a twinkie! If all the schools in the country did end up regulating the caffine/junk food intake of our youth, it might really make a huge difference in the class room, then the country's future.

I didn't really think Fast Food Nation was a very good movie, but it had one good point: when schools were required to serve healthy meals, grades improved and bad behavior significantly decreased.

It's a free country, but the education system is a federal institution provided for the purpose of the betterment of our country and our people. If we're going to give our kids a bunch of sugar then ask them to sit still for extended periods of time, then say something's wrong with them if they're hyper, then put them on ritalin to make them chill out, what kind of adults are we forming?

Bubba's Sis said...

Roxi brings up a very good point - the educational system is a FEDERAL INSTITUTION and so if the government believes that it is better for kids to not have the option to purchase Cokes at government-funded schools, then I'm OK with it. If they need a Coke that bad, they could bring one from home! The government isn't telling grocery stores and restaurants not to sell Cokes - just the schools (and no, I don't think it will come to the point of outlawing Cokes everywhere). Personally, I think there are too many parents who are irresponsible in teaching their children healthy lifestyles, so the government and the schools have to step in (I think most any teacher would agree that many parents expect the schools to raise their kids and teach them all they need to know, not them). That is the reason they have required P.E. classes at schools - for a lot of kids that is the only physical activity they get during the week. That is the reason schools have to teach sex education - parents just don't give their kids the information they need. That is the reason there are anti-drug programs in the elementary schools. The government HAS to be in the business of raising kids because there are too many parents who decide they aren't.

Bubba said...

I don't think this is a law, rather an agreement that the schools have made with the big "Coke" compamines.

I don't think kids have as many "rights" as people think they do when they are at school. With the argument that kids should be able to choose what they drink, you can extend that to choose what they wear, choose what they bring to school, etc. I see the danger in precedent going the other way.

Another note, I like that they keep cokes out of school. You want a coke for lunch, bring it from home. They aren't making coke drinking against the law, just not making it available for purchase at school.

When I was at school, they didn't let us eat lunch, so there.

Bubba said...

I can't seem to edit my post, but I misspelled some stuff.

Also, schools are a form of local government, not federal government. All Southerns should keep the feds and the state gov. separate.