FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Starving Kids Won’t Make Them Read Better

An Arkansas lawmaker wants to cut school lunch funding for schools that fail to improve their students’ reading levels.

I’m sorry, what?

I think I understand the logic behind such a proposal. I just strongly disagree with it. It’s cruel, but even more than that, it’s based on a misunderstanding of human nature and human society.

The logic is this: When people do bad things, you should punish them. When they do good things, reward them.

If the schools do a bad thing (fail to teach kids to read), this bill punishes them (takes away their lunch money). Honestly that sounds more like the actions of a playground bully than an advanced democracy.

Perhaps the punishment model of governing would work if schools and teachers and students and parents were naturally bad, or if they were only failing to improve reading levels because they weren’t trying. Maybe if that were the case, a punishment might be the incentive they needed. Maybe.

But what are the odds that an entire state’s worth of schools and children and their families are all trying to do poorly?

Most Americans believe education is important to success in life. Sociological studies like the books Unequal Childhoods by Annette Lareau and Despite the Best Intentions by Amanda E. Lewis and John B. Diamond found that the parents and school children they studied, even those who were doing poorly in school, valued education and believed it was important to do well.

A much more likely scenario is that the students, their families, their teachers, and their schools are all trying their best and failing. And if they are failing, it’s for a reason. Or several reasons.

I’ve been teaching college for several years now. I have yet to meet a lazy student. I’ve had students cut class or fail to turn in homework, and sometimes they’ve plagiarized. There’s always a reason.

One student who turned in no papers grew up in a rough neighborhood and had an abusive family. He went to substandard schools and he hadn’t written a paper for school since 8th grade.

This student was smart, and he was one of the most motivated students I’ve ever taught. When I asked him about not turning in his papers, I found out he was afraid anything he wrote wouldn’t be good enough. He feared if he went to the school’s writing center for help, he would be ridiculed for being “dumb.”

That student ended up earning a B in my class. Punishing him wouldn’t have helped. Instead, I worked with him. I found out what his needs were and I addressed those needs. That’s how you improve education. The student and I were both fortunate that I had the time and ability to give him what he needed.

When students and schools are failing, it’s because they cannot do any better than they are with the resources they have. They need something they don’t have in order to improve. Punishing them won’t fix the problem. Helping them will.

What’s more, hunger impacts school performance. Denying children food is a sure way to worsen reading levels, not improve them.

I’m not advocating blindly throwing money at all societal problems as a miracle cure. What we need is a careful, measured approach in which we find out what the actual problems are and then study cost-effective ways to fix them.

When people are already trying their best with the resources they have and failing to improve, you can’t punish them into doing better. Especially by making kids go hungry.

More articles by:
bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
Weekend Edition
January 17, 2020
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: No Woman, No Cry
Kathleen Wallace
Hijacking the Struggles of Others, Elizabeth Warren Style
Robert Hunziker
The Rumbling Methane Enigma
Frank Joyce
Will the Constitution Fail Again?
Pete Dolack
Claims that the ‘NAFTA 2’ Agreement is Better are a Macabre Joke
Andrew Levine
Biden Daze
Vijay Prashad
Not an Inch: Indian Students Stand Against the Far Right
Ramzy Baroud
Sealed Off and Forgotten: What You Should Know about Israel’s ‘Firing Zones’ in the West Bank
Norman Solomon
Not Bernie, Us. Not Warren, Us. Their Clash Underscores the Need for Grassroots Wisdom
Ted Rall
America’s Long History of Meddling in Russia
David Rosen
The Irregulators vs. FCC: the Trial Begins
Jennifer Matsui
The Krown
Joseph Natoli
Resolutions and Obstacles/2020
Sarah Anderson
War Profiteering is Real
James McFadden
The Business Party Syndicate
Ajamu Baraka
Trump Prosecutors Make Move to Ensure that Embassy Protectors are Convicted
David Swanson
CNN is Trash
Rev. William Alberts
Finally a Christian Call for Trump’s Removal
Dave Lindorff
The ERA Just Got Ratified by Virginia, the Needed 38th State!
W. T. Whitney
Mexico Takes Action on Coup in Bolivia and on CELAC
Steve Early
How General Strike Rhetoric Became a Reality in Seattle 
Jessicah Pierre
Learning From King’s Last Campaign
Mark Dickman
Saint Greta and the Dragon
Jared Bernstein - Dean Baker
Reducing the Health Care Tax
Clark T. Scott
Uniting “Progressives” Instead of Democrats
Nilofar Suhrawardy
Trump & Johnson: What a Contrast, Image-wise!
Ron Jacobs
Abusing America’s Children—Free Market Policy
George Wuerthner
Mills Are Being Closed by National Economic Trends, Not Environmental Regulations
Basav Sen
Nearly All Americans Want Off of Fossil Fuels
Mark Ashwill
Playing Geopolitical Whack-a-Mole: The Viet Nam Flag Issue Revisited
Jesse Jackson
New Hope for One of America’s Poorest Communities
Binoy Kampmark
Harry and Meghan Exit: The Royal Family Propaganda Machine
Ralph Nader
Trump: Making America Dread Again!
Rob Okun
A Call to Men to join Women’s March
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
We All Need to Be Tree Huggers Now
Tom Stephens
The New York Times’ Delusions of Empire
Julian Rose
Fake-Green Zero Carbon Fraud
Louis Proyect
The Best Films of 2019
Matthew Stevenson
Across the Balkans: Into Kosovo
Colin Todhunter
Gone Fishing? No Fish but Plenty of Pesticides and a Public Health Crisis
Julian Vigo
Can New Tech Replace In-Class Learning?
Gaither Stewart
The Bench: the Life of Things
Nicky Reid
Trannies with Guns: Because Enough is Enough!
James Haught
Baby Dinosaurs on Noah’s Ark
David Yearsley
Brecht in Berlin
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail