The soft tyranny of federal regs

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British author C.S. Lewis wrote many years ago, “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”

The truth of Lewis’ words was illustrated recently in two items on the Custer School Board’s June meeting agenda. 

The first item that illustrated federal government overreach was the presentation of a plan to serve locally grown beef in school lunch rooms in Custer and Hermosa. Representatives of Lunchtime Solutions, Inc., the company that contracts to provide food services for the district, emphasized their responsibility to comply with stringent federal regulations with regard to school breakfast and lunch menus. At the same time, a mother and ag industry worker, who was instrumental in getting a local beef program started in Hulett, Wyo. schools, spoke of how shocked she was to learn the government commodity hamburger given to schools is about half soy. 

Another agenda item was even more illustrative of the feds’ micromanagement of our lives. 

The board gave first-reading approval to a four-page update of the district’s “Wellness Policy.” 

The new preamble to the revised document (adopted in 2014 and last revised in 2016) tells the story: 

“This ‛basic’ district-level policy template meets the minimum Federal standards for local school wellness policy implementation under the final rule of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.”

The greatly-expanded policy provides for establishment of a “School Wellness Committee” (with community involvement), makes certain nutritional commitments, provides for nutrition education, gives guidelines for food and beverage marketing in schools (what can and cannot be sold in school vending machines) and sets standards for physical activity. 

With regard to that last area, the policy states: “Children and adolescents should participate in at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day.” Schools have had that for years. It used to be called “recess.”

The specific provisions under the “Nutrition” category seem even more oppressive, including these strategies for promoting healthy food and beverage choices: 

“Many available vegetable options have been given creative or descriptive names.”

“All staff members, especially those serving, have been trained to politely prompt students to select and consume the daily vegetable options with their meal.” 

“White milk is placed in front of other beverages in all coolers.”

And then there is this: “Student artwork is occasionally displayed in the service and/or dining areas.” 

Don’t educators and lunchroom workers have enough to do, making sure children are properly taught and fed without having to harp on them to “eat your vegetables” or worse, make sure little Johnny or Susie’s artwork can be viewed as kids are eating their mac and cheese?

There was no discussion with regard to the wellness policy and for good reason. What would be the point? The district’s hands are tied in matters such as these because this is simply one of the hoops that must be jumped through in order to receive federal funds. 

And so the tyranny (by endless regulation) continues.