My son has an argumentative essay to write on an article they gave him to read in his social studies class. I read the article and then looked to find an actual link to it online, since according to the ending blurb:
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
So if you follow the link you can read the article. My son is supposed to do a five-paragraph argumentative essay on it. His assignment:
Based on what you read do you think flavoured milk should be banned in schools? Using the information in the text, argue why your position is more reasonable than the opposing position.
Since I was stymied for a blog topic today, I thought I would take his assignment and see just exactly how difficult it is for me to write an essay.
So here goes:
The article by Christina Hoag presents statements from people both for and against the serving of flavored milks in schools. The chief arguments seem to focus on the questions of the nutritional impact of its presence or absence: will the removal of chocolate milk encourage healthier nutritional choices for kids, or will it lead to greater nutritional deficiencies? Lost in this whole debate is the question of individual freedom, choice and power. Once we examine the article from this perspective, I think we can come to a better conclusion about the impact of flavored milk in schools.
The underlying assumption of the entire article is that it is the business of our public schools to make nutritional decisions for their students, rather than for students and parents to make the decisions for themselves. In one sense that is correct: if students don’t bring a lunch, they are held captive to the power of the school cafeteria for the nutritional choices available to them. But in another sense this is wrong: while the pressure of what is available around us and what others are doing is certainly there, it is the individual’s opportunity to choose that is ultimately important.
The evidence for chocolate milk includes a joint statement by some impressive groups: School Nutrition Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Dietetic Association, American Heart Association, and National Medical Association. They note that the nutritional value of the milk outweighs the harm of the added sugar. They also note children who drink flavored milk are not more obese than those who don’t drink milk.
They are offset by people who mention the obesity epidemic, and compare flavored milk to candy. The article also references TV chef Jamie Oliver and his crusade against flavored milk in schools. The article furnishes statistics on the amount of sugar consumed by students in the form of flavored milk. There is an underlying idea that sugar is bad.
What can be seen from both these sides is vested interests determining what is best for students in the place of the parents, and battling over which view is allowed to be imposed on the parents and students. If the milk is removed, choice is diminished. If the milk remains, the stamp of the school’s educational aura “teaches” students that flavored milks are a viable nutritional option. Either way the debate is structured as a win/lose situation. Either way the role of the parent and student is diminished and their control and freedom decreased.
So how do we remove the power players from this decision and return control to the parent and the student? Removing flavored milk won’t do it. Leaving it might — but only if the parent makes a conscious decision with their student about the role of flavored milk as part of their dietary intake, and takes responsibility again for their own family’s eating habits. For that reason I say flavored milk needs to remain.