Dear Mr. Kingston:
Congratulations on your plan to have the destitute children of Georgia sweep their schools to earn their lunches! It is important for kids living in poverty to learn there is no such thing as a free lunch until they become Congressmen or bankers. Of course, since their families are super duper poor, it is unlikely they will ever become either. So relax, those seats are safely reserved for the wealthy kids whose parents you will need to pay back with choice opportunities for their children.
Child labor was outlawed in the early 20th century. This is a minor objection I am sure you will be able to overcome by appealing to our darkest views of human nature. Just keep reminding Georgians that Satan finds some mischief for idle hands to do, even where children are concerned. Best to keep their little hands real busy.
I’m not sure how you are going to overcome the argument that all children can benefit from learning work ethics, not just poor children. Many are going to say that you are showing hostility toward poor kids by insisting that only poor kids need to work. I’m sure you’ll work out those details, or your press staff will.
There are only a couple of other problems with your beliefs about poor children and food that I can see, so I give them to you here, so you can figure out some responses to satisfy the people of your good intentions.
Number one, the United Nations Convention on Human Rights states that food is a human right and that it must be a) culturally appropriate–for example, you don’t make American kids eat whale blubber and you don’t make Eskimos eat bread– and b) available in ways that do not violate a human’s basic dignity. Forcing children to embarrass themselves in front of their classmates in exchange for food might violate that right. You know, kind of like forcing mothers on welfare to accept work assignments that do not protect them under U.S. labor laws, and submit to drug tests and big government intrusions on their lives. Oh wait–Georgia does that, too.
We outlawed child labor because kids were dying all over the nation, incinerated in the chimneys of the wealthy while cleaning them or crushed by machinery in factories when, they’d lay down and shut their sleepy eyes for a few minutes. But surely you can figure out a way to reverse that watershed law, which has outlived its usefulness.
After all, in the 20th century, our government still made it possible for Americans to raise their own children. Now, we are on track to have all kids in day care by three months old. If we got rid of the absurd notion that children should be able to see their parents, why not bring back child labor?
I am wondering if you realize that your plan is far more cunning than you may know. It is a brilliantly cunning economic scheme. Your state gets federal funds that pay for the free school lunches–Georgia’s state budget doesn’t pay for them. This means that any kids that work cleaning up Georgia schools are not really earning money to pay for the lunches–they are already paid for–but are simply keeping the school clean for free, and putting the other kids on notice of what will happen if their parents ever lose their jobs. A few months in, you’ll be able to lay off paid adults from cleaning positions, thereby filling state coffers more. At the same time, it trains poor kids early on to know their place in American society. You’ll be carrying out a great social engineering project, in which poor children learn to let people walk all over them and be grateful for what little they get.
Moreover, last year Georgia quietly kept 92 million in federal block grant funds that the federal government gave your state to alleviate the hunger, homelessness and suffering of Georgia’s children and families. Not sure what you spent it on, but better to not give it out, lest those poor families use it to meet their basic needs and lift millions of children in your state into the middle class, whereupon they will compete with your kids for all the great advantages now reserved for you and you friends’ kids.
The best part of the plan is that Georgia’s cash assistance payment is pegged at only 18 percent of the poverty line. That’s one of the most daringly low ratios of aid to need in the nation! No bleeding hearts in your state legislature, no sir!
Diane R. Pagen