Seems that National is about to jump on the bandwagon of food-in-schools. While the MacDoctor sees the political advantage of kicking the chair legs out from under Labour, he is still of the opinion that this is ill thought out and not good policy. John Key seeks to justify it thus:
“However, “if the child is not fed … we know they don’t learn.”
Not exactly, John. We know that children who are hungry do indeed have less ability to learn. Unfortunately, there is no evidence that feeding children will improve learning outcomes, outside of third-world countries where the nutritional status of children is often dismal. In New Zealand, we have some evidence that would suggest that supplying breakfasts in schools makes no difference to learning at all. This is likely to be because hungry children are a proxy for neglected children.
Any competent teacher will tell you that the single most influential factor is a child’s learning is not the teacher, the school or a full bell – it is an engaged parent. Unless the parents of a child are actively engaging with, and encouraging, the child’s learning, education is just pushing a wet noodle uphill. No amount of feeding of children will change this. In fact, it could possibly make it worse by removing another area of responsibility from a responsibility-deficient parent. School-feeding schemes are likely to be a total waste of money.
Of course, you could simply say that feeding hungry children is the right thing to do and the MacDoctor will certainly agree with you. But this is not an area that the government should be involved in. No government should be taking part in purely charitable works. Aside from the dubious ethical nature of being generous with money that you have forcibly taken from the taxpayer, any government that takes on a charitable function has a basic problem.
Where do you stop?
Should you provide lunch as well as breakfast? What about dinner? How about replacing those poor-quality clothes? and what about those shoes that are a size too small/large? How about free after-school care? Free babysitters? Free iPods and iPads? Free Sky TV? Where. Do. You. Stop?
Most of us, when donating to charities, stop when we run out of spare cash. Governments never seem to have this restriction. They can just get more from the taxpayer or borrow it.
So where do you stop, Mr. Key? Right now. Before you start.