How much government intervention is too much? When is too much of a good thing not so good?
Michelle Obama has made it her mission to combat childhood obesity. No one argues that eating healthy and regular exercise is good. Few argue the merits of providing nutritionally better school lunches or offering daily physical education programs. But where do we draw the line?
Should schools be able to ban home packed lunches as in some areas of Illinois? Does the school administration or board know better than mom what a child should eat? What if a parent has concerns about processed foods, hormones in milk or meat as well as herb- and pesticides used on produce?
But what if a child is seen eating only chips and soda for lunch? What if he throws the apple and carrots in the trash? Who takes responsibility? Is is the school’s responsibility? Is it still the parent? Where do we draw the line?
Mrs. Obama wants kids to exercise. Today many schools have cut out Physical Education programs. Only 8% of elementary schools still offer regular PE for the students. Even more surprising 20% of the schools have removed recess from their schedule. It seems the government wants to tell us what to do but isn’t following it’s own advice.
One of this week’s big stories is about a two hundred pound eight year old boy who was removed from his home. He weighs too much and Child Protective Services decided his family is not working hard enough with him to lose weight. “They say” while he has no imminent danger he could develop problems in the future. The child weighs three times as much as a typical child his age. No one will argue that being obese, particularly to this extent, is not good. But… Should the government take him from his home? Because of privacy the public has limited information on this case. We don’t know what the family tried; what the child’s genetics are; whether better food has been provided in the home or just suggested. There are many unknowns.
Let’s just say, for the sake of argument, that we agree this child should be removed and forced to exercise and eat healthy. After all, we do agree that he will benefit by losing weight and becoming fit. So the government is allowed to make the decision in this case. But what about a child who weighs 50 pounds more than he should? And it wasn’t that long ago that bulimia was a top issue… Does that mean the school should be watching our young girls to make sure they are eating enough? What if a child is too skinny? What government assigned BMI number might cause your child to be whisked away to a fat farm (or an anorexia clinic)? Where do we draw the line?
If the school or a health clinic reports to the Child Protective Services that they observe a child either not eating right or maybe testing anemic (not enough iron) can the government agency come in to your home and check the cupboards or your meals for nutritional value? Aren’t we already seeing this in the push towards restaurant portion size and kid’s meal offerings?
My farmer cousin once showed me how he managed feeding his many cows. Each cow had a digital chip attached to its ear and at the food trough there was a reader that could tell which cow had eaten and which had not. Food would be released only to the cow which hadn’t yet had it’s allotment. It seems a far fetch that this same method could be used on people. But is it really?
Does the Constitution give government agencies the right to make sure we grow up eating our vegetables and skipping cake? Does the government have the right to take our children if it decides they might have health problems in the future? If we say yes here, where do we draw the line?