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Hungry for Education
April 2, 2013 6:42 PM   Subscribe

Though reducing hunger in school children has been proven to lead to a "significant increase in educational opportunity and attainment", the Tennessee state legislature believes they have a better plan to improve the performance of underprivileged students: a 30 percent reduction in "Temporary Assistance for Needy Families" benefits to parents whose children are not making satisfactory progress in school.
posted by Slap*Happy (118 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
Jesus fucking wept. You have got to be kidding me. This is the sort of thing that makes me think firing every government official, everywhere, and starting from scratch is not a bad idea.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 6:45 PM on April 2, 2013 [27 favorites]


I am so ashamed to be a Tennessean.
posted by homerica at 6:46 PM on April 2, 2013 [14 favorites]


As amended, it will not apply to children with handicaps or learning disabilities. How charitable.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 6:48 PM on April 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


There is a not very well disguised element of sadism in this (and other) social welfare policies. The basic "the beatings shall continue until morale improves" kind of sadism.
posted by jokeefe at 6:48 PM on April 2, 2013 [61 favorites]


This is the sort of thing that makes me think firing every government official, everywhere, and starting from scratch is not a bad idea.

I agree, assuming that 'firing' means 'set on fire'.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 6:52 PM on April 2, 2013 [17 favorites]


Look, it's very simple. Should we give those tax dollars to families to help feed hungry children? Or give it back to rich CEOs so they can send the money to factories overseas to pollute the Earth while making junk we don't need?

It's basically a no-brainer.
posted by DU at 6:52 PM on April 2, 2013 [41 favorites]


In fairness, the newly amended bill apparently says that families won't lose benefits if parents take some action to help their children, such as taking a parenting class (because a single parent working three jobs and raising a kid has time for that) or attending a parent-teacher conference (also a challenge for many parents), which makes this slightly less odious than the original proposal. But still... Wow.

Might as well title this the "encouraging welfare parents to beat the crap out of underperforming students" bill.
posted by zachlipton at 6:52 PM on April 2, 2013 [9 favorites]


It would be incredibly interesting to me to swap the legislators and senators with the destitute and see what happens, on both sides.
posted by ZaneJ. at 6:53 PM on April 2, 2013 [9 favorites]


God bless America.
posted by ob1quixote at 6:54 PM on April 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Do any of these lawmakers have any kind of education at all? About anything? This is beyond... words.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 6:54 PM on April 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


I can't imagine being a teacher trying to manage a class of struggling students under this law, knowing that not passing them could cause them to not eat. What a horrible, cruel, thing to suggest.
posted by jetlagaddict at 6:56 PM on April 2, 2013 [99 favorites]


We definitely need to do more to punish children for the sins of their parents.

"attending a parent-teacher conference (also a challenge for many parents), which makes this slightly less odious than the original proposal."

I wonder if Tennessee mandates employers give compensated, unpenalized time off to hourly employees, a la jury duty, to attend a yearly parent-teacher conference, IEP meetings, suspension/expulsion hearings, and so on.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:56 PM on April 2, 2013 [25 favorites]


Dennis said he was surprised by Johnson’s comments because “most educators I’ve talked with” believe parental involvement is one of the biggest problems in teaching and the bill is a way to encourage parental involvement.

Yes, every educator I know agrees that taking away food from their children is the best way to 'encourage' parents to care about education. GG, Tennessee!
posted by Huck500 at 6:57 PM on April 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


Average monthly TANF benefit in Tennessee: $168.90. Average monthly wage of employed participants: $660.39. (Source: .pdf)

If we starve all these kids, will we only be left with smart over-achievers? Is there a word for this kind of engineering?
posted by Houstonian at 6:59 PM on April 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


Sounds like... a modest proposal.

YYYYYEEEEEEEAHHHHHHHHHHH
posted by trunk muffins at 6:59 PM on April 2, 2013 [20 favorites]


We need to stop electing dreamers and start electing administrators. I can only begin to imagine the buerocratic nightmare this is going to be. So many agencies that have to communicate, and I can guarantee there's not a shared communication system between them. Ridiculous.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:01 PM on April 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


(because a single parent working three jobs and raising a kid has time for that)

If they're working full time they won't be getting TANF.

Also, would the reverse of this, giving parents a bonus if their kids performed at a certain level in school be a good thing? The main problem with this is that it only affects parents on government assistance. Parents who are working won't be affected, even if they get back earned income tax credits.

I do think we need to encourage parents to take more of an interest in their kids grades, including penalties for not giving enough of a shit. The problem with this is that it only applies to the most vulnerable, it's just a way to bash "welfare" even though there won't be many kids on welfare at all given the fact that it's only "Temporary" at this point, you can't be on welfare for your kids entire childhood.
posted by delmoi at 7:02 PM on April 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


That "Doesn't affect home schooled kids" sounds a great deal like "A carrot" for moving under-performing poor kids out of the school system.... insidious
posted by NiteMayr at 7:03 PM on April 2, 2013 [14 favorites]


Welp, I'm off to Georgia.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:04 PM on April 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Tennessee's Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF, aka "Families First") program:
Families First provides temporary cash benefits to families who have children, and are experiencing financial difficulties. These benefits are time-limited to 60 months in a participant’s lifetime.

The Families First program emphasizes work, training, and personal responsibility. To be eligible for the program, participants must agree to follow a Personal Responsibility Plan (PRP). As part of the PRP, the participant agrees to keep immunizations and health checks up to date for their children, keep their children in school, co-operate with Child Support Services to establish paternity, and participate in a work/training program for at least 30 hours per week.

Unless a participant is exempt from the 30-hour work requirement, he/she will develop, with the assistance of a work activity contractor, an individualized career plan (ICP). This plan is based on the participant’s needs and skills. The ultimate goal of the ICP is to provide a work and training guide that will result in financial independence for the family.
PDF outline of the plan.

On preview: delmoi, they are required to be in work/training at least 30 hours a week (requirements and exceptions are on page 3 of the PDF I linked). I don't see anything there about forbidding full-time work.
posted by maudlin at 7:06 PM on April 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


In fairness, the newly amended bill apparently says that families won't lose benefits if parents take some action to help their children

And now that I'm reading the actual amendment text, I see that parents will still be penalized if their child is failing, and that taking a parenting class or attending a parent-teacher conference only restores the benefits to subsequent payments going forward. Parents would need to attend 2 parent-teacher conferences, 8 hours of parenting classes, or enroll their child in a certified tutoring program or summer school before they could get their benefits restored. So basically the parents would be penalized for a month or more even if they diligently worked to complete these steps. If this wasn't about punishing poor people, they'd at least provide an exception if parents took prompt action instead of penalizing them in the meantime.

Plus the bill says that parents would need to provide documentary evidence in person to the department, so I'd imagine several weeks of bureaucratic delay, taking buses an hour-and-a-half each way, time away from work and family to deal with the paperwork, etc... before any benefits are restored.
posted by zachlipton at 7:07 PM on April 2, 2013 [6 favorites]


http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/2013/apr/02/401k-eyed-to-cut-cost-of-state-pensions/

Sounds to me like a ploy to try to extract concessions from the teachers union by using the health and well-being of children as a bargaining chip.
posted by dudemanlives at 7:07 PM on April 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


How about Tennessee adopt some "achievement-based metrics" to adjust legislators' pay?

Gah.

Fuck you, Tennessee.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 7:17 PM on April 2, 2013 [24 favorites]


I hope I live long enough to see the revolution.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 7:19 PM on April 2, 2013 [17 favorites]


I wonder if Tennessee mandates employers give compensated, unpenalized time off to hourly employees, a la jury duty, to attend a yearly parent-teacher conference, IEP meetings, suspension/expulsion hearings, and so on.

Not only are they not given any such thing, but in the next county over from me students get a grade boost if their parents show up to PTA meetings. Which is nothing if not poorly-veiled classism. The first time I heard about that (I was homeschooled and therefore blissful ignorant of most of this) I had to go throw things for like half an hour.

The more bullshit I see from this latest onslaught on education, the more I think Bourdieu was probably right: the function of education is to reward, privilege and reproduce cultural capital as a very prominent marker of class. Don't speak the right type of English? You're fucked. Parents don't have time to go to PTA meetings? You're fucked. Don't already have a baseline level of knowledge established due to being around adult individuals of a certain class before you're even enrolled in school? You're pretty much fucked. It's just that this latest round of paring down even the smallest initiatives that might help break those barriers has made it steadily more and more apparent that the purpose of the educational system (at least in the eyes of the public and politicians) is anything but education.
posted by WidgetAlley at 7:20 PM on April 2, 2013 [27 favorites]


Notice the phrasing at the end of the amended bill text: "This act shall take effect July 1, 2013, the public welfare requiring it." I'm sure that's boiler plate for the TN legislature. It's also an almost Orwellian act of newspeak. As for the substance of the bill, it's like we are weaving our social safety net out of razor wire.
posted by audi alteram partem at 7:22 PM on April 2, 2013 [7 favorites]


Jesus fucking wept. You have got to be kidding me.

I read the post in RSS and thought to myself "Jesus fucking wept. Are they fucking kidding?" and then clicked through and saw this and laughed.

It was a bitter, desperate, strangled kind of laugh.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:25 PM on April 2, 2013 [10 favorites]


I live in Tennessee. I moved here for a job. (a good job, sigh.) It's a really frightening place in so many ways. It's a place where one can easily imagine a new wave of Fascism blooming...
posted by anguspodgorny at 7:28 PM on April 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


Jacquilynne, I'm right there with you. It's all I can do to not ragesmash.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 7:32 PM on April 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's a place where one can easily imagine a new wave of Fascism blooming...

This, in all seriousness. When I heard about the spate of murders committed by white supremacists in Texas this week, my first thought was "Thank God, not here." And then I felt bad, because my first thoughts should have been, "Those poor families and victims." But it says something about Tennessee that it was so very within the realm of possibility that the first instinct was to go, "Whew! Not here, yet!"

(On a personal rather than a societal level, I am still glad I grew up here. I doubt I'd be half the person I am now if I had grown up where the majority of people agreed with my social/religious/political beliefs, and I was fortunate enough to have a semi-privileged upbringing that shielded me from the worst of the effects of legislation like this. Also, I'm white. That helps too.)
posted by WidgetAlley at 7:35 PM on April 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


(because a single parent working three jobs and raising a kid has time for that)

If they're working full time they won't be getting TANF.


I don't know the requirements for public assistance but there are lots of people forced to work multiple jobs as they cannot get enough hours at any one of them to qualify for "full time".
posted by triggerfinger at 7:37 PM on April 2, 2013 [7 favorites]


Also, would the reverse of this, giving parents a bonus if their kids performed at a certain level in school be a good thing?

How about if we just fucking feed kids who are hungry instead of worrying about dis/incentivizing feeding hungry goddamn kids.

/head explodes in flames
posted by rtha at 7:43 PM on April 2, 2013 [41 favorites]


Also, would the reverse of this, giving parents a bonus if their kids performed at a certain level in school be a good thing?

Betsy Phillips in Nashville wrote about a possible connection between this bill by Stacy Campfield and programs that provide a bonus for higher performance: Did Stacey Campfield Really Model His 'Starve Poor Kids' Bill on Other Countries?

Except, maybe those programs were too much carrot and not enough stick for Mr. Campfield.
posted by smuna at 7:49 PM on April 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


The internet needs a Tennessee mashup of Florida Man and What would bill do...
posted by maggieb at 7:53 PM on April 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't picture school administrators enforcing this.
posted by Brocktoon at 7:58 PM on April 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


You know, for all the pandering that Republicans do to the Christian set, you'd think one of them would pick up a Bible. For example:

Woe unto them that decree unrighteous decrees, and that write grievousness which they have prescribed; to turn aside the needy from judgment, and to take away the right from the poor of my people, that widows may be their prey, and that they may rob the fatherless! And what will ye do in the day of visitation, and in the desolation which shall come from far? to whom will ye flee for help? and where will ye leave your glory?

Or:
Whoso stoppeth his ears at the cry of the poor, he also shall cry himself, but shall not be heard.

Or:
Rob not the poor, because he is poor: neither oppress the afflicted in the gate: For the Lord will plead their cause, and spoil the soul of those that spoiled them.
posted by JDHarper at 8:02 PM on April 2, 2013 [31 favorites]


On preview: delmoi, they are required to be in work/training at least 30 hours a week
30 hours a week isn't full time. The comment I was replying to was about someone working "three jobs", presumably more then 40 hours a week. Three jobs worked 10h per week isn't something that would prevent you from attending parent teacher meetings or whatever.

The reason I say that is because above a certain income level, you don't get TANF, and working 40 hours a week at minimum wage would be $1,160 a month. I'm not sure what the actual cutoff is for benefits.
posted by delmoi at 8:06 PM on April 2, 2013


There is a reason I fled Tennessee as soon as I was of age and rarely return.

Add to this that despite TN resorting to running a lottery (yes) for health care 2x a year, refuse to expand Medicare because OMFG! it's Obamacare!
posted by edgeways at 8:07 PM on April 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


Three jobs worked 10h per week isn't something that would prevent you from attending parent teacher meetings or whatever.

That depends a lot on how far apart those jobs are and how the shifts are scheduled and where your kids' school is in relation to all of this and whether you have a car or are relying on public transit to get between them. The fact is, making poor people jump through hoops so you don't cut them off from the already ridiculously minimal benefits they get is not a move designed to help them.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:09 PM on April 2, 2013 [44 favorites]


Flunk kids and watch them starve!
posted by Mental Wimp at 8:09 PM on April 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


If anyone knows people who are defending this action as "reducing government influence/expenditures" - they're saving money by taking food away from kids, and if the parents want to continue feeding their kids through school luch, they must enroll in a state-sponsored "parenting class"...which sounds like a great way to reduce government influence!
posted by antonymous at 8:12 PM on April 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Flunk kids and watch them starve!

More. Watch them starve more.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 8:12 PM on April 2, 2013 [7 favorites]


If they're working full time they won't be getting TANF.

My point with the parenthetical was less about the specifics of income and work requirements and was more that requirements that seem easy to upper-middle-class lawmakers can be more difficult for people with inflexible employment schedules, unreliable or poor transportation, difficult or unaffordable child care needs. other relatives they must care for, physical and/or mental disabilities or other health conditions, etc... Oh, and your benefits have already been cut 30% at this point, so you're probably hungry and missing any work is even less of an option than normal. Certainly not all TANF recipients have all these constraints, and I'm sure some have many others, but it's a population that, on the whole, is going to have a harder than average time attending eight hours worth of approved parenting classes or showing up for multiple parent-teacher conferences in the middle of the school day.
posted by zachlipton at 8:13 PM on April 2, 2013 [6 favorites]


Three jobs worked 10h per week isn't something that would prevent you from attending parent teacher meetings or whatever.

It would if those hours took place during the school day, or if they were distant from the school. Or if you need a translator or other service aide. It's just a looney tunes plan.
posted by jetlagaddict at 8:19 PM on April 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Searching through various scholarly articles on this it seems that there is a lot of evidence that sanctions don't work. Successful programs linking benefits to peroformace are driven by rewards. Give families $50 when they get their kids vacinated or a bonus for school performance.
posted by humanfont at 8:27 PM on April 2, 2013 [6 favorites]


All glory to God's own Republic,
The land of the brave and the free!
They starve out poor children for failure
In pious and fair Tennessee.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 8:32 PM on April 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


The hunger games begin.
posted by driedmango at 8:50 PM on April 2, 2013 [13 favorites]


I was just thinking we spend way too much time paying attention to educators and child experts regarding what's best for our children and really the people whose judgement we should trust are wealthy morons who happened to buy their way into office.
posted by Joey Michaels at 8:52 PM on April 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


The hunger games begin.

*Begin?* This is the start of the third act.
posted by gerryblog at 8:53 PM on April 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


Oh my fucking fuck. It's like Season Four of The Wire, only written by George Orwell. Also, not fiction.

You know, for all the pandering that Republicans do to the Christian set, you'd think one of them would pick up a Bible. For example:

Anyone who had an ounce of sense and had read the Bible would never think this is something Jesus Would Do. So what does that tell us about the Christians the Republicans pander to? They're not really Christian? Haven't read the Bible? Don't have any sense? All of the above?

Also, don't you need to provide some serious evidence for your case before proposing legislation like this? I am quite certain there is no research in existence that shows you can improve the educational achievement of marginalized children by threatening their parents with further penury.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 8:54 PM on April 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


...they established the rule, that all poor people should have the alternative (for they would compel nobody, not they), of being starved by a gradual process in the house, or by a quick one out of it. With this view, they contracted with the water-works to lay on an unlimited supply of water; and with a corn-factor to supply periodically small quantities of oatmeal; and issued three meals of thin gruel a day, with an onion twice a week, and half a roll on Sundays. They made a great many other wise and humane regulations, having reference to the ladies, which it is not necessary to repeat; kindly undertook to divorce poor married people, in consequence of the great expense of a suit in Doctors' Commons; and, instead of compelling a man to support his family, as they had theretofore done, took his family away from him, and made him a bachelor! There is no saying how many applicants for relief, under these last two heads, might have started up in all classes of society, if it had not been coupled with the workhouse; but the board were long-headed men, and had provided for this difficulty. The relief was inseparable from the workhouse and the gruel; and that frightened people.

For the first six months after Oliver Twist was removed, the system was in full operation. It was rather expensive at first, in consequence of the increase in the undertaker's bill, and the necessity of taking in the clothes of all the paupers, which fluttered loosely on their wasted, shrunken forms, after a week or two's gruel. But the number of workhouse inmates got thin as well as the paupers; and the board were in ecstasies.
posted by kagredon at 8:56 PM on April 2, 2013 [9 favorites]


So, the other clause in this bill is: families whose incomes are, say, 3x the limit for TANF have their tax bills rise 30% for every kid doing poorly in school, right?
posted by Dreidl at 9:22 PM on April 2, 2013 [8 favorites]


"Three jobs worked 10h per week isn't something that would prevent you from attending parent teacher meetings or whatever."
"It would if those hours took place during the school day, or if they were distant from the school. Or if you need a translator or other service aide. It's just a looney tunes plan."


Yeah, I've been taking one of my kids for speech therapy and OT provided through the school district (through federal early childhood programs to identify and intervene in developmental issues early; these programs are ONLY available through the district in a city my size). I am married, financially comfortable, work for myself and only very part time, have a car, stay at home with my kids, and getting through the initial set of evaluations and meetings was basically a full-time job, and going to the therapy appointments and the re-meetings and whatnot is VERY time-consuming and the schedule for these appointments is very time-limited by what's available from the very scarce, overscheduled district-employed therapists. I have found the entire process overwhelming and I have two graduate degrees and am on the school board. I knew the entire process already, and when I didn't understand things, I could talk to the special ed director or the district attorneys or my mom who's a teacher in the same state, just any of those people that I'm friendly with socially and see frequently, and get my casual questions answered. That's WITHOUT calling people up that I know professionally through my service on the board.

I was only sarcastically asking if Tennessee provides paid time off for hourly employees to deal with school issues because I know they don't. Illinois doesn't either. Around 20% of K-12 students are special ed these days, disproportionately concentrated in poor communities. Those students are disproportionately likely to fail. If dealing with the bureaucratic process to get a child necessary educational help is overwhelming FOR ME, a well-resourced married stay-at-home mom who is on the freaking school board, imagine what it's like for an impoverished single parent on TANF with a low reading level attempting to work an hourly job who has no access to a car -- and public buses don't really stop at schools around here.

Just the time commitment alone to access special school services -- whether that's special ed services or tutoring for failing students -- is so gigantic I honestly cannot imagine how single working parents do it. Honestly cannot imagine.

After experiencing this myself I've asked our district to look at local-level solutions -- talking to large employers and unions about the need for low-level employees to be able to attend school meetings without penalties, educating parents on their rights regarding FMLA and special ed, providing official letters to employers on parents' request about the date and time of a meeting so they can get unpenalized time off -- but though those local solutions are helpful, it's clearly a systemic issue that can't be solved by local solutions. Also I'm slightly ashamed it took this experience to open my eyes to how seriously problematic this is, but glad I've seen it. Geez, dude. It's crazy.

"Successful programs linking benefits to peroformace are driven by rewards. Give families $50 when they get their kids vacinated or a bonus for school performance."

Sidenote, it isn't poor families that don't vaccinate; poor families may not always vaccinate on schedule or by school deadlines because of difficulty getting to the health department for the free vaccines, but they vaccinate. It's rich families that refuse to vaccinate, and they are much harder to incentivize through that sort of bonus.

posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:31 PM on April 2, 2013 [31 favorites]


How fucking shameful. Teachers and little kids are now responsible for poor families getting or not getting enough to eat or pay rent. What a bunch of cowardly fucks those legislators are.
posted by oneirodynia at 9:38 PM on April 2, 2013 [6 favorites]


Wha??? I don't even...

You know, before I go into some foaming off at the mouth rant that will (yet again) embarrass me in public, I'll just go now.

But, just so you know, there is rant. There is certainly a rant.
posted by _paegan_ at 9:40 PM on April 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


He described the measure as “a carrot and stick approach.”
This is a new definition of carrot and stick. I am absolutely seething at the damage this will cause to little kids who have no control over their parents actions or paychecks.
posted by Joh at 9:41 PM on April 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


A fucking travesty. The shame doesn't really end at the Tennessee borders, since we're allowing this to happen in our country. A nationwide boycott of them would send a lovely, clear message. Or setting the legislators on fire, as previously suggested.
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 9:42 PM on April 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


Three jobs worked 10h per week isn't something that would prevent you from attending parent teacher meetings or whatever.

Spoken as someone who has clearly never had to have three jobs, let alone three jobs and schoolkids. You really think they schedule parent/teacher conferences between the evening shift and the graveyard shift? Do you think everyone who has three jobs has them across the street from each other? Never rides the bus? Isn't trying to go to night school? Doesn't have any court ordered community service? An ailing grandparent? A colicky baby keeping them up all night? A sibling in rehab? Sheesh, a little imagination is all it takes to see how unworkable that can be for people who can barely get by as is.
posted by oneirodynia at 9:46 PM on April 2, 2013 [27 favorites]


" ... but if we put spikes on the stick and poison the carrot ... "
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 10:11 PM on April 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Delmoi wrote: I do think we need to encourage parents to take more of an interest in their kids grades, including penalties for not giving enough of a shit.

Do you have a background in education or social work, or have you any other special knowledge of this area? Have you made a study of poorly-performing children, so that you can speak to the causes of their underperformance? Do you know how these welfare programs work or by whom they would be administered, so that you can say whether these measures would be applied wisely? Does your knowledge of home economics allow you to judge whether a 30% reduction in TAFN would be inspirational or merely devastating? Have you considered what would happen to children on the poverty line if their parents have even less money? Do you have any basis for thinking that Tennessee would be a better place with this measure in place, or are you just saying that you think lazy people should be punished?
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:22 PM on April 2, 2013 [18 favorites]


Also, would the reverse of this, giving parents a bonus if their kids performed at a certain level in school be a good thing?

No, this would be a stupid thing. Here's how subscribers to some quite conflicting worldviews might find this idea stupid:

"While the resources exist to ensure that everyone is adequately fed, people should have access to food just because they need it."

"Incentives imposed by a totally artificial authority, with no natural relation between the reward and the behaviour being encouraged, are unnatural and unjustifiably coercive."

(The former view is supposed to parody a "communitarian" objection to your proposal. The second view parodies a "libertarian" objection. I happen to agree with some version of both of these objections.)

Here's another, actually:

"Proposing that, whether by punishment or reward, a family's economic well-being should be partly predicated on the quality of a child's work seems to be a form of child labour, which is widely regarded as highly socially undesirable, and is in fact (hopefully?!?) illegal in the jurisdiction in question. Generally, it is held that parents are to try to provide for their children, and the reverse situation (in which children try to provide for themselves and their parents) is typically regarded as tragic. The proposal differs, perhaps in degree, but not in kind, from such a situation."
posted by kengraham at 10:27 PM on April 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


I am a parent of two, now grown. I had a split shift situation on one job where the LEAST problem with the bus schedule could make me late to my work. I had other jobs that were across town from my kid's schools. I often had to WALK to get to that stinking split shift job, because it was quicker after they re-routed the buses. I have issues with my eye-sight. I had bus drivers insist it was no problem to cross FOUR LANES of serious traffic,. I had to argue with them to ride the route around to a safer crossing.
I used to curse people who drove for their inability to 'get it'.
Trying to work even ONE job with kids is miserable enough.
I did at points hold two.
This legislator in Tennesee deserves to be burned at the stake. After every woman who has tried to keep her family going in the face of stupidity like his gets to have fun giving him much needed Sensitivity Training on his Sensitive Bits.
It's the existence of 'people' like him that makes me wonder what the Hell is wrong with our country.
Definately not enough good defenestrations.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 10:31 PM on April 2, 2013 [6 favorites]


Legislated like a man with no experience of an abusive childhood. Of course, abused children are the most likely to have emotional issues that affect performance... and are also the least likely to be officially noted as having special needs.

Downward spirals by policy. Gah. It makes me angry and it makes me sad.
posted by jaduncan at 10:41 PM on April 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is a new definition of carrot and stick.

It is almost the literal definition of carrot and stick.

It's one thing that Campfield can draft a Bill like this (and boy does he come in for a lot of abuse in the comments on the story...encouraging). But the fact that it cleared committees, and is set for a vote and no one really talked about the ethical implications of this? The fact that it's a serious proposal?

Wow.

The USA needs to do something about accessibility for elected office. It is simply impossible for real people not ensconced in the top 1% to have access to a vote in a legislative body above county. And that narrowness is killing American democracy, and hastening the demise of a creative, compassionate, high potential nation.
posted by salishsea at 10:57 PM on April 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


how about a 30% reduction in Tennessee legislator total income if Tennessee GDP growth does not exceed 8% per year?
posted by cupcake1337 at 11:14 PM on April 2, 2013 [12 favorites]


Speechless. Abject fury.

jokeefe: There is a not very well disguised element of sadism in this (and other) social welfare policies. The basic "the beatings shall continue until morale improves" kind of sadism.

YES! That is the first time I have ever heard anyone call this plainly for what it is. It is sadism. I do not think it's, you know, philosophical differences or beliefs that, however fucked up, are somehow well intentioned. I think that it actually is true sadism.

And I am done with watching the poor be helplessly targeted by sadists in power and/or by the sadists' cousins - sociopaths

how about a 30% reduction in Tennessee legislator total income if Tennessee GDP growth does not exceed 8% per year?

Oh fuck yes. Now how can we make that happen??
posted by cairdeas at 11:23 PM on April 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Now how can we make that happen??

Form a political party (it'll have to be a new one because the existing ones won't fit ideas like that in their tent) and get several dozen of your candidates elected in the face of well-moneyed opposition? In which case you'll be the one facing the pay cut.

Good luck!
posted by Jimbob at 11:52 PM on April 2, 2013


Well take it a step further and it might work. Children not doing well in school? They get fed to the students who are doing a little better. And then if those kids don't do well, might as well feed them to the rich. Win-win-win.
posted by angrycat at 1:44 AM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Keep in mind that as part of welfare reform in 1996 TANF requires states to implement thee kinds of policies along with work requirements. In TN there are already a number of sanctions related to child rearing that can cut your benefits. For example kids must attend school and be vacinated under current law. Also TANF and Food Stamps are not the same. TANF is "te porary" direct cash assistance. It is capped at 60 months of assistance. Food stamps are a difference program.
posted by humanfont at 1:48 AM on April 3, 2013


Obviously, the legislators are in cahoots with the prison owners, and will be compensated accordingly at some point in the not-too-distant future.
posted by windykites at 2:07 AM on April 3, 2013 [8 favorites]


60 months in the life of a young child is a very, very long time.
posted by Orb at 4:37 AM on April 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


I bet those legislators pat themselves on the back every Sunday and believe themselves to be good, faithful Christians, too.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:02 AM on April 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


This sounds like a good way to arrange for a lot of poor kids to get their asses whupped by deadbeat parents. I'm not sure what kind of animated clapping gif would be most appropriate.
posted by turgid dahlia 2 at 5:10 AM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


60 months in the life of a young child is a very, very long time.

60 months is five years, a very long time for a child... and that's consecutive. I wonder about families who need seasonal assistance, such as agricultural workers or construction, may need three or four months of assistance a year for a decade or more. This little bit of help can mean the difference between a hot meal and hunger, between making rent and camping out in the car for a while until the work comes back.
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:13 AM on April 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


This is so.....gaaaah. This bill is not about helping students who are performing poorly at school because it doesn't target all the students. Students whose parents are not on welfare also perform poorly but the government doesn't hold a big stick over their heads to beat them with. This is another disgusting display of Republican hatred of the poor.

My state (NC) has a Republican controlled house, senate and Governor's mansion for the first time in over 100 years and it has been mind blowing to see the tidal wave of shit legislation pouring out of the state capitol. Things like passing a bill to allow hunting on Sunday but proposing a bill to prevent voting on Sunday. I've come to dread reading the news. This morning I woke to find that the legislators have introduced a bill to allow a state religion.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 5:52 AM on April 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


This morning I woke to find that the legislators have introduced a bill to allow a state religion.
SECTION 1. The North Carolina General Assembly asserts that the Constitution of the United States of America does not prohibit states or their subsidiaries from making laws respecting an establishment of religion.

SECTION 2. The North Carolina General Assembly does not recognize federal court rulings which prohibit and otherwise regulate the State of North Carolina, its public schools or any political subdivisions of the State from making laws respecting an establishment of religion.
It has a little of the feel of those freeman legal arguments, and has the same kind of wishful thinking/hand in ears approach to Tenth Amendment legal logic that was famously problematic during the civil war.
Eleven House Republicans have signed on to sponsor the resolution, including Majority Leader Edgar Starnes, R-Caldwell, and Budget Chairman Justin Burr, R-Stanly.
I cannot quite believe the majority leader has signed up to this.
posted by jaduncan at 6:00 AM on April 3, 2013


This is awful, but I'm confused why everyone is describing this as "starving children"- TANF is temporary cash assistance, versus the SNAP/food stamp program. I'd also be interested to see the income limits for TANF in TN- I read recently that the number of poor kids receiving cash assistance has dropped hugely since welfare reform in 1996. Honestly in my mind, a bigger issue than changes to the program, which already has weird requirements as stated above (determining paternity?), is that so few poor families even have access to these programs anymore. This is just spitting on the grave of welfare in America.
posted by MadamM at 6:05 AM on April 3, 2013


I sent an email to my local representatives. It included the sentence: I am deeply ashamed to be a Tennessean today.

Next step: finding volunteer opportunities/donation opportunities to help local kids who are hungry.
posted by Mouse Army at 6:14 AM on April 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


This is awful, but I'm confused why everyone is describing this as "starving children"- TANF is temporary cash assistance, versus the SNAP/food stamp program.

Yes, this is true. It often means the ability to make rent however, and money is fungible. When it's a choice between eating properly and making rent/paying for electricity a lot of people are going to take the view that staying under a roof is important. The assumption that it won't impact on nutritional intake is dependent on SNAP covering food costs.
posted by jaduncan at 6:16 AM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


or are you just saying that you think lazy people should be punished

Take a person working multiple jobs, trying to raise children, support a family, possibly without a car to get to work, do grocery shopping, appointments, etc. Compare that person to me, with my relatively cushy job, 4+ weeks of paid vacation a year and car which makes day-to-day living infinitely easier. Fuck if they're lazier than me. Poverty alone is hard work and that's even before you throw in children, sick relatives and everything else that makes it such a vicious cycle. This is not punishing people for being lazy, it's punishing people for being poor.
posted by triggerfinger at 6:18 AM on April 3, 2013 [23 favorites]


I grew up in Knoxville, and my family has lived in East Tennessee for more generations than I can count. I also grew up poor, with a mother who worked multiple jobs, sometimes as many as three at a time. We were on food stamps (back when they were actual stamps), and only avoided living in our car because of my grandparents' grudging assistance.

I excelled academically (mostly in an effort to escape poverty), but my brother struggled, mostly from undiagnosed learning disabilities, but also from living in a terrible home environment. Living that close to the bone made my parents fight, it made them angry, and it made them abusive. When my mother was dying of cancer and couldn't walk two miles between her jobs anymore, federal assistance was the only thing that kept us fed. If our assistance had been tied to my brother's academic performance, all three of us would have starved.

I'm powerfully drawn to Tennessee; it's a beautiful place, and I guess it's in my blood from all those ancestors who wouldn't live anywhere else. I tear up when listening to "My Tennessee Mountain Home." I visit once a year or so. I'm deeply unhappy where I live now, and my heart would dearly love to go home to the hills. However, I will never live in Tennessee again, and mean-spirited garbage like this is why.
posted by timetoevolve at 6:19 AM on April 3, 2013 [16 favorites]


This is the sort of thing that makes me think firing every government official, everywhere, and starting from scratch is not a bad idea.

....We get to do precisely that every Election Day.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:26 AM on April 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


I grew up in Murfreesboro TN and I really enjoyed it living there until I was 18. I'll never be back. Somehow it's as though TN decided they were in a contest to decide which was the stupidest state in the union. It saddens me to say that my former home fills me with nothing but disgust.
posted by josher71 at 6:34 AM on April 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


North Carolina is definitely in a race to the bottom, Republicans introduced a bill to require background checks for folks getting federal benefits. Of course, the local DSS offices would pay for this with all their extra money.
posted by marxchivist at 7:33 AM on April 3, 2013


EmpressCallipygos: "This is the sort of thing that makes me think firing every government official, everywhere, and starting from scratch is not a bad idea.

....We get to do precisely that every Election Day.
"

Except for the part about firing them != setting them on fire. I think the latter would produce quicker and higher quality results. But I appreciate your mercy. You have more faith in the system than I do.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 7:41 AM on April 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


The article states that the bill has cleared all Senate committees and has one more House committee meeting before going up for a vote. Does anyone with a handle on Tennessee politics know the likelihood of this actually passing?

It's sponsored by Sen. Stacey Campfield, the same guy who:

1) Tried (and failed) to pass the 'Don't Say Gay' bill;

2) Said: "Most people realize that AIDS came from the homosexual community — it was one guy screwing a monkey, if I recall correctly, and then having sex with men.";

3-12) Top 10 Most-Offensive Things About Anti-Gay Tennessee Senator Campfield

I'm not trying to minimize the insanity of the bill, I just want to know if he's a Michele Bachmann or a Scott Walker.

This is the sort of thing that makes me think firing every government official, everywhere, and starting from scratch is not a bad idea.
....We get to do precisely that every Election Day.

Not if Tennessee state Sen. Frank Nicely gets his way:

Tennessee's Colossally Bad Plan to End Senate Primaries

Tennessee state Sen. Frank Nicely, a Republican from Strawberry Plains, has introduced S.B. 471, which would, beginning in 2016, eliminate party primaries for the U.S. Senate in Tennessee. Members of the state Legislature would instead select the nominees.
posted by Room 641-A at 7:45 AM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Does anyone with a handle on Tennessee politics know the likelihood of this actually passing?

I don't know. Campfield has a reputation, even among his fellow politicians, as a complete nut. However, Tennessee in general is very ignorant of basic science and social science, so when he goes completely off the rails, most TNeans don't see him as being factually incorrect (which he is.) As far as I can tell, they see him as violating the social norms of politeness. So when he says something like, "Most people realize that AIDS came from the homosexual community," his fellow politicians are perhaps annoyed that he brought up something so crass in a place that tends to gloss over the nasty implications of their speech, but I would wager that more than 50% actually agree with his version of events.

If Campfield could play the game like everyone else in terms of couching his homophobia, racism and insanity in polite, "business-friendly" Southernisms and talk of economic expansion, he'd probably be a powerhouse. It's possible that this bill is also too blunt and transparent to be passed. But if other politicians can get a hold of it and talk about "incentivizing education in a way that rewards hard work and teaches young people about business" or something like that, then yes, it may very well pass.

On the other hand, if someone can spin it as either too expensive for the state or too much of a government intrusion into people's lives, it might get killed. Either way, I doubt it will be denied solely on the moral grounds of "We can't freakin' not feed people for doing poorly in school, what the fuck kind of system is that?", which would be the appropriate reaction.
posted by WidgetAlley at 7:56 AM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yesterday I sat in the human services offices waiting, as one does. One woman at the counter looks bored. She dressed as all my family/acquaintances who are addict sex workers dress and look and have lived among and worked with such populations it becomes possible to make a fairly educated guess.

"My other kids are in foster care on foster medicaid, I'm signing up the new one and just seeing if I need to do anything with that."

She has three tats on her back. I presume, the missing kids.

"No that's not in our jurisdiction" the woman behind the counter says nicely.

A bunch of folk dressed in medical gear show up looking well groomed and exuberant and wealthy. I grew up around the enfranchised and successful. Their fulfilled social relationships and societal status glows in their exuberance and cheery just world philosophy transcends the gloom and misery that clings to rest of us sitting in the waiting room.

A bubbly radiant smiley woman cheerily greets the woman at the help desk.

"Hi! We're participating in a community immersion program, so we need to find out what it's like to apply for community resources!" She laughs as the woman at the help desk hands her an application packet. "Here's the form"

"Ok!" says smiley happy woman having her enriching educational experience. "So now can you sign my form that says I did this?"
"Sure". The woman at the desk signs the form.

Happy woman walks out. Now she knows what it's like to apply for benefits!
Only, she knows nothing of what it's like to apply for benefits. When you actually apply you have to know you're exposing yourself to the scrutiny of a brutal penal system that explores every parental flaw in it's most unbecoming and critical light and that having a disability of any kind will not mean more support, it will mean more scrutiny, judgement and lecturing and threats of removal (or actual removal depending on how well you can charm your critical judge.)

The majority of people making these policies have no idea what it's like to cope with extreme poverty, addiction, disability, learning differences, and being part of disenfranchised and hated populations. And when all you know is the people who accept you as you are versis a brutal paternalistic system that represents the way our society supposedly wants the "bad people" to be managed- it's not just "the system" you become afraid of. You become afraid of everyone because you know the setup really IS against you and not for you. Populations who cope with this for generations learn to stay away from anything related to "society proper", and services people who aren't disenfranchised expect to be helpful all feel like dangerous opportunities for the penal system to launch an attack (because often they do.)

I'm so tired of the fact that because people like me, and like the people in the waiting room waiting for disabilities with me have such a hard time mastering the school system we don't get heard when these policies get made. The people who need help get their voices erased and the system continues to work against the people it's supposed to serve. It's easy to presume the addict with the three missing kids was just a "bad person" and didn't really care about her kids- but what was her life really like? How did she get there? Has anyone EVER really been on her side?
posted by xarnop at 7:59 AM on April 3, 2013 [22 favorites]


Top 10 Most-Offensive Things About Anti-Gay Tennessee Senator Campfield

The day when he is found dressed in bondage gear in a motel with an underage rent boy cannot come soon enough.
posted by jokeefe at 8:04 AM on April 3, 2013 [7 favorites]


I excelled academically (mostly in an effort to escape poverty), but my brother struggled, mostly from undiagnosed learning disabilities, but also from living in a terrible home environment. Living that close to the bone made my parents fight, it made them angry, and it made them abusive. When my mother was dying of cancer and couldn't walk two miles between her jobs anymore, federal assistance was the only thing that kept us fed. If our assistance had been tied to my brother's academic performance, all three of us would have starved.

This is the kind of personal testimony that needs to go in the letters to representatives, letters to the editor, etc. The problem with these goons is that there is not a human face on poverty because they've never seen it first-hand. I urge you to copy/paste that paragraph into every applicable contact form you can find.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:05 AM on April 3, 2013 [11 favorites]


This is the kind of personal testimony that needs to go in the letters to representative, letters to the editor, etc. The problem with these goons is that there is not a human face on poverty because they've never seen it first-hand. I urge you to copy/paste that paragraph into every applicable contact form you can find.

Unfortunately, Stacey Campfield, author of this bill, is the bane of all Knoxvillians that have a brain and a heart (and his Don't Say Gay bill isn't dead yet); that link shows you just how he responds to concerned contituents.

The day when he is found dressed in bondage gear in a motel with an underage rent boy cannot come soon enough.

Until that day comes, here's an amusing article from Psychology Today that pretty much calls Campfield that exact type of hypocrite.
posted by heatvision at 8:16 AM on April 3, 2013


My proposition for the day is: Resolved: that stupidity is more dangerous than ineptitude, but less dangerous than hubris.
posted by mule98J at 8:52 AM on April 3, 2013


By the time I was done R'ing TFA, my ears were ringing and my head was spinning. Whoo boy, the world we live in.

I grew up pretty poor and even when I was in their custody, presumptively under their care, my parents were gone most of the time. To this day, I have no idea where they were or what they were doing; that is not information they cared to share with me. To that end, they certainly didn't care what I did, ever; I literally had no rules in life except "don't get pregnant." When they weren't gone, they... well, they weren't the most encouraging people in the world. My family's station in life didn't just fail to inspire me to excel in an educational environment, it actively discouraged it. Everything fucking sucked and I hated every single day. I didn't want to go through the hassle of paying attention in class if it wasn't directly relevant to my future employment, I wanted to listen to Nine Inch Nails records and dream about getting the hell out of there.

Since scholastic performance was not required or even vaguely asked of me and I was just told that I would need a job very soon, I knew that getting an A in, like, organic chemistry or whatever was going to have NOTHING to do with getting a job as soon as I finished high school, so after skipping a grade and years of gifted and talented programs and all that nonsense I just... stopped caring, completely. Due to that and a number of other circumstances, all of which could be directly tied back to the fact that we were as poor as we could get while still getting to have a Section 8 roof over our heads, I failed my senior year of high school and did not graduate. My cumulative GPA wound up being something like 1.65?
For better or worse, I've considered myself a full-fledged adult since I was 9 or 10 years old, and performed somewhere between most and all of the duties my parents should have performed for many years, but if whether or not my family was allowed to receive adaquate nourishment had been tied to my scholastic performance (or lack thereof) when I was a desperate, lonely, histrionic teenager, I would have imploded under the pressure. There was so much pressure already.
And goddamn, man, we were ALREADY hungry. What we received in benefits was simply never enough to provide for my mother's pre-existing habits/addictions and food for the lot of us. We were already on food stamps, living in the projects, and going to the food pantry -- and every month was still a scrape. Every DAY was a scrape. We never knew if we were going to starve or get evicted or what. Imagining having to live on 30% less than even that trifling amount is all but inconceivable -- and putting the responsibility for maintaining the full amount directly onto the shoulders of children is pretty much raw, unadulterated evil.

My parents did not give one half of one fuck about me, in or out of school. You could not have found two people on earth who cared less about whether or not their child existed, let alone succeeded -- and it's not like either of them would have suddenly grown a magical sense of "parental responsibility" if their bennies were at risk. Instead, the beatings would simply have continued until morale improved! Everyone wins!

So yeah, we're out there, Tennessee: poor, hungry kids who wound up only getting "parents" in the dictionary-definition sense of the word. We feel responsible for everything; we are responsible for so much, but we're still really just dumb, scared little kids. There's no need to make us suffer even more for our families' continued indifference and disdain -- life is already pretty fucking unpleasant for us, and we just want to GTFO by hook or by crook... which we cannot do without, like, food. Can't you do the right thing for once? I hear there was this radical truth-speaking Jewish carpenter who probably would've wanted it that way.
posted by divined by radio at 9:11 AM on April 3, 2013 [38 favorites]


And those that have not, even what little they have will be taken away.
posted by windykites at 9:29 AM on April 3, 2013


Wait, I didn't see any mention in the article of how much it is going to cost to monitor all of those kids, determine who has a qualifying disability, handle grading appeals ("That teacher hates me! She's racist/sexist/a pedophile mad because I resisted!") and enforce this. More than it saves, I would think.
posted by OnceUponATime at 10:10 AM on April 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


As utterly despicable as this legislation is, kids aren't going to starve. It doesn't affect their eligibility for the federal National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs, so they can still eat at school. And it doesn't affect federal SNAP benefits (food stamps) so they can still eat at home (maybe). TANF is cash money type welfare.
posted by elsietheeel at 10:12 AM on April 3, 2013


Wait, I didn't see any mention in the article of how much it is going to cost to monitor all of those kids, determine who has a qualifying disability, handle grading appeals ("That teacher hates me! She's racist/sexist/a pedophile mad because I resisted!") and enforce this. More than it saves, I would think.

Yeah, because actually saving money is usually not the real reason for legislation like this. Punishing poor people for being poor is. Shaming people is often expensive, but that doesn't seem to matter.
posted by rtha at 10:20 AM on April 3, 2013 [8 favorites]


As utterly despicable as this legislation is, kids aren't going to starve. It doesn't affect their eligibility for the federal National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs, so they can still eat at school. And it doesn't affect federal SNAP benefits (food stamps) so they can still eat at home (maybe). TANF is cash money type welfare.

Unfortunately, what a family receives in food stamps does not usually come close to covering actual food costs, not to mention the fact that there's a fairly short leash on what you can buy with SNAP. This amount will also drastically decrease if your parent happens to know a retailer or fellow dole recipient who will allow them to trade a particular amount in stamps for a slightly lesser amount in cash, which allows said parent to magically turn their EBT into beer and cigarettes.
Also, receiving free breakfast/lunch looks very simple on its surface but actually seeking it out can be immensely alienating; free meal tickets are often differently colored than paid-for meal tickets, else "free food" kids are likely to have to stand in a separate line than those whose parents have established more stable incomes.
By the time high school rolled around, I found that I would often rather not eat at all than I would stand in line nervously fingering and trying to hide my stupid blue ticket; I was so weary with being ridiculed by my peers just because I happened to need free lunches, and there was so little dignity available to me at that juncture -- it just gradually happened to become my tiny little hill to die on, a strange perverted sense of pride I could adopt even when my stomach was growling. Fuck you, I don't need your free lunch, I don't need your charity. Sometimes I would ask to trade lunch tickets with other kids (whose lunch tickets were red) just to feel "normal" for a day, but really, no one wanted the blue tickets; no one wanted to look that poor.

In my experience, TANF was there to fill the gap between what we got in food stamps and what we actually needed to pay for the rest of the food we were supposed to eat and everything else (as a family of six, IIRC, we got ~$500/month each in SNAP and cash benefits). You need to use TANF to pay the heat/electric bill -- even if you get the poor folks' discount -- gas up/fix your car and/or pay public transit fare, get school supplies, and purchase all non-food groceries like TP/soap/etc. When there is literally nothing else, when you have no coffers or backup or savings or generous familial benefactors but there are still quite a lot of mouths to feed, every cent in any type of benefit reduction is likely to result in there being less food in a poor kid's stomach. Trickle-down caloric restriction.
posted by divined by radio at 10:54 AM on April 3, 2013 [10 favorites]


Also, receiving free breakfast/lunch looks very simple on its surface but actually seeking it out can be immensely alienating; free meal tickets are often differently colored than paid-for meal tickets, else "free food" kids are likely to have to stand in a separate line than those whose parents have established more stable incomes.

Maybe when we were in school, but schools aren't allowed to do that anymore.

USDA Policy Memo SP 45-2012: Preventing Overt Identification of Children Certified for Free or Reduced Price School Meals (PDF).
SFAs must assure that a child’s eligibility status is not disclosed at any point in the process of providing free or reduced price meals, including notification of the availability of free or reduced price benefits; certification and notification of eligibility; provision of meals in the cafeteria; and the point of service.
Again, I'm not denying this is seriously shitty legislation and it's shaming and awful. But as you note, it's more than hungry kids. TANF is money that bridges a lot of gaps.
posted by elsietheeel at 10:59 AM on April 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


elsietheeel, that link just made my day -- I had no idea the USDA had enacted measures to discontinue the maintenance of different lines and differently colored lunch tickets for free vs. paid meal recipients at school. That was absolutely one of the worst and scariest things about growing up poor; it made it feel so much more difficult to establish my merit as a regular old human being because I was so publicly 'marked' in that way. Really fantastic to know they've banished that punitive and draconian policy. Thanks for that!
posted by divined by radio at 11:08 AM on April 3, 2013 [8 favorites]


That's federal guidance and schools participating in the NSLP and SBP *have* to follow it to get their federal reimbursement money, so if you know of a school that's still identifying kids based on their F/RP status then contact your regional USDA Civil Rights director or your state Child Nutrition Program director and let them know.
posted by elsietheeel at 11:35 AM on April 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Sheesh, a little imagination is all it takes to see how unworkable that can be for people who can barely get by as is.

I've always maintained that what conservatives lack is an imagination. It's the only way their natural-born empathy and desire to do good can be kept from kicking in.
posted by Mental Wimp at 11:39 AM on April 3, 2013


This really is about public shaming and humiliation rather than saving money. Shaming, humiliation, and for that matter starvation are extraordinarily expensive measures to implement.

What I believe the left, here and other places, misses is that was a nation as a whole we really do consider the humiliation of others as a resource worth paying for. I'm not saying this in a "tut-tut, we should stop that" way, but in a "ah, this is a thing about contemporary humans that we must account for if we want to be successful" one. I mean, we've got that impulse too - it's not too hard to find mefi threads where respected members of the community propose increasingly sadistic punishments for criminals, for example. The most recent one that I can think of involved punishing the thieves at Goldman Sachs by putting them in rooms lit only by a television permanently set to show nothing but reality television. Or, hell, just note the jokes up thread here about how the legislators responsible should be set on fire. I mean, it's in jest, certainly, but it's a jest that shows that given a choice between rehabilitation and sadism, we tend toward sadism.

That's as far as I've got. I don't have any methodologies or even real suggestions for how the left can supply the wasteful and inefficient torture-of-our-fellow-humans that we all crave, without abandoning our core principles. After all, in order to satisfy our desires, the torment we inflict to be wasteful, it has to be inefficient, it has to target members of out-groups, and it has to be arbitrary, cruel, and quasi-medieval as possible.

Yes, this is a game of "stop hitting yourself" writ large and deadly. No, pointing that out will not change anyone's minds, because all of us rather enjoy a game of "stop hitting yourself" now and again, provided we're on the side of the game that doesn't get hit.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 12:27 PM on April 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


I do hope the legislators are all submitting evidence of their own children's satisfactory progress before being paid. In well off, educated families like that, straight As should be a good minimum, right?
posted by jacalata at 1:01 PM on April 3, 2013


I think the more powerless we are to protect people from the harms of others thoughtlessness the more reactionary/angry/punitive we feel about it.

A poor person is a threat to our money so we get pissed at them for sins that plenty of rich people committed but the rich don't threaten our money's so they don't get stoned for their vice, greed, thoughtlessness, selfishness and personal failure.

When a person with a lot of power is abusing it and as a result a LOT of people who could be helped are left in suffering-- it's very hard to not feel-- angry.

I have mixed feelings about the usefulness of anger but I do feel certain it has a place. It is an active force in pushing change. It's just thinking through how we use it so that we promote the actual change we want to happen, is the step that gets missed in raw/punitive anger that hasn't been seasoned with reason, knowledge, wisdom, and well crafted planning. You need to look at what your goal is- (if the anger is seeking some sort of goal) and you need to step back from the emotions and calculate a plan that reflects the nature of how to work within this reality and the way that human beings function.

If only our leaders actually spent time reading a variety of different fields of studies, talking to specialists (including people with firsthand experiences with the problems being solved themselves), and creating solutions to societal problems that actually reflected knowledge of human health and behavior and promoted actual human welfare and positive behavior. Frequently being part of the team that is solving problems results in affluence and societal praise that is denied to the people being helped who are seen as burdens rather than valuable humans. This is sort of burden that could be remedied by asking people with problems to take part in the solutions and be participants in their communities in ways that match their actual abilities.
posted by xarnop at 1:08 PM on April 3, 2013


I also think if you trace bad behavior to it's roots, you are often left with an endless trail of understandable causes and effects that lead up to the present.

And a compassionate but firm response to the bad behavior is most needed. The problem is when we don't have any means if enacting a firm and non-violent response. There is a point when using anger or actual violence becomes the only recourse left and might be worth using to remove "bad" people from having too much power to harm others.

We have relatively little power to save children from bad parenting. In reality, a lot of suffering happens because well intentioned (and poorly intentioned) ineffective parenting styles/beliefs/behaviors. As long as the family has money and there are no bruises, we can't save the kids from unloving parents.

We take out that powerlessness on the poor who may or may not be unloving (and sometimes ARE unloving and chosing to be bad parents) but frequently they just don't have resources to cope or provide an enriching environment and they are struggling to endure and using escape mechanisms to cope with the hardness of life (which takes them away from seeing their childrens needs clearly). Some people are just wretched and give two shits about their kids but these people happen across the economic spectrum. We just don't have the capacity to take them down and make them pay because they afford to buy services that buffer them from being seen. And somehow taking it all out on the poor (can you BELIEF such wretched people have kids? Whew, glad that's not me!) becomes a relief valve for diffusing everyone's insecurities about their own failings, and because it makes sense they should suffer for it when wealthy people often get counselling, therapy, bodywork, household help, and other services when they are overwhelmed instead of shaming, invasive scrutiny, "performance check ups", and calls to CPS if they didn't get a kids shot on time or missed a dentist appointment.
posted by xarnop at 1:22 PM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't think a compassionate but firm response to bad behavior is necessary. This is because I think that many of the comorbidities that come with being poor tend to diminish in intensity when the poverty diminishes. Basically, I think that if they're concerned with getting us to not do terrible things, instead of being paternalistically concerned with our inner well-being and with steering us away from moral hazard, the people in power should just give us money.

However, I postulate that the concern for moral hazard is a part of the game, a very satisfying one. It's the part where the person holding your arm and beating you with it tells you to stop hitting yourself. The way it inflicts pain both physically and spiritually, through taking control of your body and then blaming you for letting yourself be taken control of, is one of the most satisfying pastimes we've developed. At least for the person taking the control, but part of the game is how it demonstrates that that's the only person who matters.

Again, I don't know how we on the left are meant to provide that pleasure without leaving the left; it's one of the chief flaws of leftism. I do think, though, that a necessary first step to trying to cope with this aspect of being human is to acknowledge that pointing out that sadism that everyone knows is sadism is in fact sadism is a politically null act. If we're interested in winning minds, we can't just point to the sadism. We have to provide it.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 1:49 PM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've always maintained that what conservatives lack is an imagination. It's the only way their natural-born empathy and desire to do good can be kept from kicking in.

Empathy is often just imagination applied in the right way. So many "culture wars" seem, essentially, to be nothing more than the result of unimaginative people fucking shit up for everyone else. (Can't even invent their own goddamn myths.)

When a person with a lot of power is abusing it and as a result a LOT of people who could be helped are left in suffering-- it's very hard to not feel-- angry.

A person with a lot of (coercive) power is almost axiomatically abusing it -- just by virtue of having it -- and this very often results in suffering for someone. I (and many MeFites) tend to feel quite angry about situations like this, but I don't know if it's "hard not to feel anger"; I know plenty of folks who wouldn't be particularly disturbed by something like this. Maybe I'm even less disturbed than I claim, since my anger has so far not sufficed to make me do anything substantial about it (a good source of auto-anger, that last part, that usually results from the first type of anger).

If only our leaders actually spent time reading a variety of different fields of studies, talking to specialists (including people with firsthand experiences with the problems being solved themselves), and creating solutions to societal problems that actually reflected knowledge of human health and behavior and promoted actual human welfare and positive behavior.

Our leaders are never going to do that for us. You can't coerce, bomb, imprison, infiltrate, regulate, delegate, etc. things like illiteracy or hunger.

This is sort of burden that could be remedied by asking people with problems to take part in the solutions and be participants in their communities in ways that match their actual abilities.

Almost. Nobody experiencing these problems owes it to anyone with power to wait to be "asked to take part" in the solutions, or to accept whatever compromise solution is offered, or anything like that. The powerful owe it to those people to, you know, stop causing and perpetuating those problems, just for starters, though.
posted by kengraham at 1:53 PM on April 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


" Nobody experiencing these problems owes it to anyone with power to wait to be "asked to take part" in the solutions"

I totally agree with what you're saying. I just meant that if you're trying to help people coping with specific things, it might help to actually have people who have been through those things share their experiences when creating solutions. Any time support structures are created entirely devoid of input or assistance from people who have actually been through those things- the structures are just made up based on the feelings and motivations of people who are guessing at what it's like or don't even really care much what it's actually like to be the people they "help".

Grass roots movements lead BY disenfranchised groups often carry more empowering and accurate ideals (my opinion)- but they often lack funding and capacity to provide actual services being generated by people who don't have economic prosperity. And people who have been through a lot of such problems don't get the same kind of platform to talk about their solutions because their adversity often made it much harder to get through school or career avenues to having voice and power.
posted by xarnop at 2:06 PM on April 3, 2013


The only real way to ask someone without resources to take part in the solution of their problems is to provide them with those resources. Being a person requires more than just a physical human body; it also requires having enough money, property, and connections to keep from being starved or worked to death. Unfortunately, it's not easy to systematically provide people with connections. Fortunately, it is easy to give us money.

Asking people who don't have resources to participate in their rehabilitation is just more "stop hitting yourself," no matter how compassionately you ask.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 2:08 PM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Can we put together a kickstarter to hire a PI to dig up something really profoundly humiliating and life-destroying on this legislator? And maybe the people connected to him? Not to wreck him politically, but for the purpose of making his life pointlessly awkward and painful and difficult? It doesn't matter if it's true; what matters is making him wriggle and squirm and beg in public so that he and everyone else will never forget what a worm he is. Is that a valid use of kickstarter? Can we turn him into the shamed outcast begging for scraps?

This raises two knock-on questions:
  1. If we did this, could the funders consider themselves as participants in a "left" action?
  2. Should we instead try to rehabilitate him so that he's good for anything to anyone, without regard to whether we get any juicy torture out of him? Or is the torture absolutely necessary?
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 2:19 PM on April 3, 2013


Grass roots movements lead BY disenfranchised groups often carry more empowering and accurate ideals (my opinion)- but they often lack funding and capacity to provide actual services being generated by people who don't have economic prosperity. And people who have been through a lot of such problems don't get the same kind of platform to talk about their solutions because their adversity often made it much harder to get through school or career avenues to having voice and power.

All true, I think. Mostly, though, from way before Wat Tyler all the way up to things like AIM or Occupy, the response has been repression, which adds to suffering and also communicates the message "You'll accept 'solutions' to problems on our terms, and that's it." Most school and career avenues are, among other things, ways to give folks enough of a stake in existing power structures -- the same ones that don't tolerate peoples' attempts to improve their own situation proactively -- that their loyalties are complicatedly divided. Durable solutions to these kinds of problems probably can't depend on "funding" or "capacity" that depends on oppressive structures to be delivered.

And yet, until durable solutions to these problems, arising from the people who need them, are allowed to be brought about, those same people often really, really require the temporary solutions provided by power, on power's terms. (Even if, when viewed from far enough away, the institutions offering the solutions look the same as the ones causing the problems.)

Maybe this is where empathy comes in; maybe some of us who have benefited a lot from existing power structures, but aren't that invested in those structures, are supposed to help, somehow. I'm of this type; I don't really know how to help, but I suspect it involves asking folks in need of solutions how I can be of service, rather than imposing my own solutions.

If the answer, for the moment, turns out to be "Help see that my TANF doesn't get fucked with by some colossal fuckmongrel of a clueless legislator", then that's probably what I've got to do. (Or donate to YCTAB's kickstarter...)

The only real way to ask someone without resources to take part in the solution of their problems is to provide them with those resources.

I think I agree with this, but to a large extent, it's not "provide them with resources" so much as "help them claim those resources to which they are, for various reasons, entitled, but which were, in a somewhat abstract way, stolen from them". I'm not sure if this pedantic quibble is important or not, but I guess it is, in a "solidarity not charity" sort of way. Those kids in school getting free lunch were, as long as we live in a time of massive agricultural productivity, collecting their birthright.
posted by kengraham at 2:40 PM on April 3, 2013 [8 favorites]


Yeah, I like that. The first step in encouraging us to help ourselves is giving us our stuff back.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 3:04 PM on April 3, 2013


ugh.
posted by spbmp at 8:44 PM on April 3, 2013


Reminder... SNAP does not provide all the food money a family needs. Believing that children won't starve because a loss in TNAF benefits is wishful thinking.
posted by _paegan_ at 6:44 PM on April 6, 2013


Lots of discussion here... Lots of intelligence, compassion.. outrage.. Just so you know, we have the opportunity here in lovely Tennessee to watch the Tennessee state legislature on TV... A sadder bunch of ignorant, mealy-mouthed, pious, foolish, uninformed, poorly educated, yes-they-went-to-law-school-but-that-doesn't-stop-them-from-not-letting-the-facts-get-in-their-way hypocrites, bullies and power-grabbing mediocrities you will not find surpassed anywhere. These people are impervious to criticism and seemingly uncaring and oblivious of their perception by the rest of the civilized citizens of this country as hicks and cruel born-again bigots. And they rest assured that they have the support of their pathetic constituents. sigh....
posted by anguspodgorny at 9:20 PM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Welfare Benefits Far Smaller Than Scorn Heaped On Them
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:31 AM on April 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


A Tennessee lawmaker has relented and agreed to drop his bill linking academic performance to the family’s welfare benefits after an 8-year-old girl shamed him by following him around the state Capitol.
posted by rtha at 11:50 AM on April 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


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