What’s Hard to Explain to Children

There has to be a better way to handle this:

When Amanda Keown received a call at work from her son, a junior at Dowagiac Union High School in Dowagiac, MI, telling her that he had not received his hot lunch because of an outstanding balance of $4.95 she took matters into her own hands. Keown not only fixed her son’s lunch balance, but every single outstanding balance in the school to ensure that no other child is forced to go hungry because of an atrocious school action.

Her son, Dominic Gant, offered to pay $2 of the $2.45 tab that day with money he had on him and bring the remainder in the following day, but the $00.45 shortage was too much for school officials, who threw his lunch into the trash. Not only was Dominic humiliated in front of his friends, but he was publicly shames when his name was posted–along with all others who owed money–on a list in the cafeteria.

“I was very angry to the point I was sick to my stomach,” Keown said. She paid the outstanding balance, then wrote a check totaling $204.95 to cover Dominic’s balance along with the 19 teenagers named. She didn’t stop there, however.

For $200, or roughly what a CEO blows at Starbucks, a list of kids gets posted on a wall so everybody can see THEY POOR YO. I don’t know what to do, when this is the world. I don’t understand what we’re supposed to do with this.

I was watching Twitter when Michael Sam got drafted, and as usual the Internet Stupid Brigade got on board with HOW DO WE EXPLAIN THE GAY TO OUR CHILDREN, and this was my favorite response:

You know what I think is hard to explain to children? Why the kid at the next lunch table has money for his lunch, when your kid doesn’t. Why the kid at the next lunch table doesn’t have money for his lunch, when yours does. How do you explain that?

“Well, son, his dad just doesn’t work as hard as yours does.”

“That’s not his kid’s fault.”

“Shut up and eat your pizza melt.”

How do you explain that the other kid’s dad got laid off because his company moved all the jobs to Mexico, the CEO took a buyout and everybody in accounting got screwed, his position was made redundant when somebody’s cousin needed a job more, and them’s just the breaks? How do you explain that, ten minutes after you get done explaining how it’s important to work hard on your homework because hard work makes you successful? How do you keep a straight face?

Explain that deep mystery of parenting. Explain why, in the richest country in the world, in a “Christian” nation, it is acceptable to publicly humiliate children for their want of $10 each. Explain how we got so paranoid and so zero-tolerant and so eager to punish. Explain how we got so goddamn small, and so unworthy of ourselves.

I’d rather deconstruct every sex act in the history of the planet for the edification of the nearest kindergarten class than have to tell those kids why they couldn’t EAT today.


9 thoughts on “What’s Hard to Explain to Children

  1. The school is being unnecessarily punitive, posting the names and taking lunches back from students. No doubt about it. It’s the school that should be ashamed, not the students.
    On the other hand (and there’s always another hand), the larger problem in our society is why we can’t pay for things we claim are important. Why is a $200 shortfall in the cafeteria budget such a crisis? Because every aspect of the school is running just that close to the bone. There isn’t $200 of slack anywhere in the system to cover the cafeteria, and the people who work there don’t have any extra to cover the students who haven’t paid. Because taxes are worse than Hitler squared, and we have to keep our taxes low, low, low or the terrorists will win.
    We have indeed fallen in line behind the smallest, most venial people in our society.

  2. I agree about the tight budgets, but any budget manager should understand the concept of sunk cost. Throwing food away does not let you recoup any costs. Adding the value of the food to an outstanding debt at least gives you the opportunity to get paid back at a future date. In the case with the kid who was 45 cents short, the school threw away 2.00 worth of food–that’s not cost effective at all.
    If the school budgets are so tight, they need to check balances before the kids get in line and get their food. Nothing gets wasted, and it saves the kids the humiliation of going to pay and having no money.
    But then those “slackers” wouldn’t be put in their place, which is really the whole point.

  3. Seconding Dorothy: it makes no sense by their own logic, always assuming that they really are worried about cost. Their actions make no financial sense, let alone moral, ethical, human, reasonable, or any other kind of sense. Except humiliation. Works great for that.
    How did we become such unworthy people, indeed.

  4. I had a much easier time explaining to my 10 year old why Michael Sam kissed his boyfriend (the 6 year old didn’t ask!) than I did explaining to both of them why I was buying $100 worth of tickets for the school carnival but only giving them $20 worth each. We have taken poor shaming to new levels here by having a carnival during school hours and requiring students to buy tickets to do anything at the carnival including drink water. A group of parents tried to change the fund raising fair but the current PTA board wasn’t interested in change. We are buying as many tickets as we can for all the kids, bringing in coolers of free water, and running new people for the board to make sure this doesn’t happen again.
    “Explain that deep mystery of parenting. Explain why, in the richest country in the world, in a ‘Christian’ nation, it is acceptable to publicly humiliate children for their want of $10 each. Explain how we got so paranoid and so zero-tolerant and so eager to punish. Explain how we got so goddamn small, and so unworthy of ourselves.” EXACTLY.

  5. A food program I had volunteered to help cook for was recently cancelled, with meetings planned in the fall to “re-evaluate and redirect”. When I asked what they meant by “redirect” I was told they were looking at some other way of helping the “poor”, rather than a weekly cooked hot meal “because we think they are becoming dependent on it.” Laugh or cry. But please be on time for YOUR supper.

  6. Better yet… if you don’t know what to say to your kids, don’t have kids.

  7. @sediment: Reminds me of an old line off the Strange Bedfellows album. Barry Crimmins paraphrased the late Jack Kemp: “If you give people food stamps, you just trap them into eating every day.”

  8. Well according to my “CHRISTIAN” Friends on the right giving any money, food stamps, education money, lunch money, health care, mental health care, home loan help… and so on is WRONG and WILL MAKE OUR ECONOMY FAIL Because some fat ass CEO won’t get his millions! GOD WHAT IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE???????????????????

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