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Murch: Keep scary aspect of school to first-day jitters

February 17, 2012
Steve Murch - Managing Editor , The Alpena News

Remember how when you were a kid you were told to beware of the boogeyman? Well, nowadays we have the boogeyman all over the place. The government is the boogeyman, each political party is the boogeyman, etc. - name an entity and someone is trying to demonize it and make it more terrifying than it actually is.

Right now, the boogeyman du jour is the public school system. Kids aren't making the grade, blame the schools; kids are lazy, blame the schools; kids are getting fat, blame the schools. Schools are an easy target because when they fight back the answer is "oh, not you, just schools in general."

I'm not saying schools are saintly or perfect. They are run by humans, and being human by nature means you are going to make mistakes every day. Schools aren't nearly as bad as everyone wants to make them out to be.

The reason schools are the target is because no one wants to blame parents. Try being the person who tries to get away with calling a person a bad parent. It's not going to happen.

The last several weeks every time you turn on the television there is a story about bad school lunches. America's children are eating poor lunches and the schools are to blame.

OK, schools should have good choices for lunches. But at some point parents need to have helped their children be able to make sensible food choices. On top of that, school budgets are beyond tight and having to spend more on lunches really isn't that feasible.

If you're more concerned about what Johnny eats at school than if he learns how to add, subtract, multiply and divide, then you have bigger issues because Johnny is going to be a high school dropout, which increases his chances of being a criminal. So while Johnny is going to be svelte, he's going to be a bigger cost to society because we're going to have to pay for his housing at a correctional facility and you'll get to complain about the type of lunches another institution serves him.

Go back and think about the school lunches when you were in school. There was probably a lot of macaroni and cheese, and other starchy foods. A tray (do they even use those old metal trays that probably were pretty unsanitary in the long run) of food probably wasn't all that nutritious, but the portions weren't heaping. Plus, once kids reach a certain age, they make a lot of runs to party stores and fast food joints to get their lunches. Not that great of choices either.

Some of the issues of health can be traced to kids not being active. Throw on those bad lunches the schools are apparently serving and look out. Never mind that there are all sorts of sugary cereals served at home, or massive quantities of potato chips and pop consumed at home. It's those darned school lunches. While Johnny might eat five meals a day at school, and 16 at home (not to mention snacks), it's the lower percentage of meals provided at the school that is doing him in.

How active are they? When I was a kid there were times my mom kicked us out of the house if we were sitting around. But for the most part, we were on the go constantly. Baseball, football, basketball, bicycles, sledding we did it all. We invented games and challenged each other to all sorts of things. It was all about getting outside.

There are parents who want everyone else to do something for their kids. When I was on the board of the Thunder Bay Basketball Association, we saw lots of kids dropped off first thing in the morning and picked up after the last game without the parents getting out of the vehicle or watching their kids play. These were the ones who didn't have to work. Those who did work still were far more involved with their kids. Let's face it, there are bad parents.

Schools are a lot of things to a lot of people, but they shouldn't be a nanny service. Could they serve better meals? Sure. But first and foremost their job is to educate the future of our communities.

Don't just criticize the job they are doing, offer a solution and help them achieve it. A community is only as strong as the people who live in it. And those people are only as strong as the school system that serves them.

Schools have a tough job and don't need to hear about the things they don't do all the time.

And they aren't the boogeyman.



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