Letters to the Editor: May 7 – 13, 2-15
F.C. Schools Shouldn’t Use Food as Teaching Tool
A recent email from Falls Church City Public Schools to parents proudly announced that fourth graders were learning about probability and graphing with M&M’s. I don’t share the school’s enthusiasm for this teaching tool.
M&M’s Math has been around for years. It’s one of many websites and books that market junk food to teach math. I prefer M&M’s Math to Hershey Bar Fraction Fun, Fruit Loops Counting Fun, and Twizzlers Percentages (I didn’t make those up), but there are serious drawbacks to Munchable Math.
In 2011, the food and beverage industry spent about $2 billion solely on marketing directly to children. They wouldn’t be spending billions annually if it didn’t pay off. They did the math, knowing the importance of establishing brand loyalty early.
Our elementary school has allowed children to be exploited by this marketing ploy, undermining the hard work of health educators by embracing the promotion of junk food to nine-year-olds in the classroom and integrating it into the curriculum. This ostensibly innocent activity sends a pernicious message to vulnerable children whose cognitive defenses are still developing. The school unwittingly sanctioned candy by associating it with learning.
If M&M’s Math works, why not use Necco Sweethearts Conversation Hearts to make reading fun or line up Hershey’s Kisses in the hallway to get preschoolers to walk in a straight line? The applications of junk food as an incentive are endless.
There are good reasons why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention discourages using food as a reward: it contributes to lifelong poor eating habits and obesity. The school system should adopt a policy that reflects the CDC’s advice.
The schools have devised some disappointing activities in the past, like having students make sundaes to learn about the development of the assembly line and having a pie-eating contest at the first Mary Ellen Henderson Fall Festival, but this one takes the cake.
What Can City Of F.C. Schools Do Better?
As a sophomore at George Mason High School, I feel I can give a unique perspective on our Falls Church City Schools regarding where the one-cent tax increase is going.
Despite the logistical issues of the building, the school faces greater problems that expand beyond the Little City. The strong emphasis on IB and the newly-introduced Middle Years program are examples of our misguided school system. Assuming every student learns the same way and enjoys the same subjects isn’t preparing us for the real world. Not everyone likes STEM programs, plans to attend college or wants to attend the University of Virginia or Virginia Tech. And that’s OK. When we start addressing students as individuals rather than statistics we will start to see results. We are more than students; we are learners, individuals, thinkers and the future leaders of this country.
Those who believe our school system isn’t as great as it should be are right. As a nation, we rank close to the bottom in terms of our education system. We need to ask the bigger question of “what are we doing wrong as a nation?” instead of “what can Falls Church do better?”
F.C.’s Tax Revenue Imbalances Should Be Reported
May the Falls Church News Press readership anticipate the newspaper, in future city budget commentaries, addressing the statement that the “…ratio of residential to commercial tax revenue is imbalanced,” as cited in the April 30 – May 6, 2015 Guest Commentary? While it is so that local commercial interests are also News-Press advertisers, just such a commentary, supported by fact, would prove true, item #2 of the News-Press platform, to wit. “Play no favorites, never mix business and editorial policy.”
A News-Press reporting on possible City tax revenue imbalances would aid civil discourse and fulfill a civic responsibility to the community.
Daniel J. Piscopo
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