This article first appeared on Boggart Blog, the authors top ranked UK humour blog.
A Scottish Education Authority, we learn, has introduced a scheme that will encourage children to take up a more healthy diet by awarding points for each healthy meal they eat. When pupils have earned enough points they can buy livestock, medical supplies or classroom equipment for third world villages and schools.
What a lousy idea. We can just see Scottish children giving up their pizza, pies and deep fried Lard in order to eat salads and buy pigs and pencils for someone on the other side of the world. Members of the Politically Correct Police may accuse us Boggart Bloggers of having a jaundiced view of childhood but we were all children ourselves once and remember what shallow, self – interested little monsters we were.
If educationalists really want to get children eating more healthily the bribes on offer will have to appeal not to altruism but to materialism. Even the offspring of the most politically correct parents are going to be more willing to eat a hundred and fifty salads or vegetarian chillis if there is an iPod to be had at the end of the ordeal.
A hundred and fifty salads represents a universe of suffering to a child reared on deep fried pizza and fish suppers*. To ask them to go through such an ordeal just to send forty chickens to a village in Africa is too much. There is also the problem of understanding; children respond to tangible reward. Were anybody able to endure the ordeal of gathering the necessary three thousand two hundred points (thirty two thousand nine hundred vegetarian meals) they would surely feel entitled to demand "Where’s ma fucking Yak, Jimmy?
Getting children in the third world to eat healthily would be more practical. The diet is already healthy and simply giving them enough of it would be sufficient reward. Yaks, goats and chickens might be a goal worth attaining in such environments but in the western world most children would be more inspired by the promise of skateboards, Playstations, mountain bikes, Remote Control Pirate Ships (like the one I got for my 60th birthday**) and electronic gadgets. There are exceptions of course, young Ethiopia Zeitgeist – Taylor, homeschooled child of a couple of meeja professionals would still valiantly much his way throuch several million portions of crudities with hummus dips to get his hands on the first cloned Woolly Mammoth but in general the sceme is a loser.
* fish supper is the usual Scottish way of referring to fish and chips. Anyone who thinks Scottish kids do not get a varied enough diet should remember they can also order chicken supper, meat pie super, deep fried pizza supper, sausage supper and deep fried Mars Bar supper. How much variety do nutritionists want?
**I mention this just to prove I am qualified to write about children.
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