Government Restauranting by Jason Holm
http://www.inflatablestudios.com

Imagine this:

You wake up one morning, pour yourself a bowl of cereal, and turn on
the morning news. As you lift your spoon to your lips, you hear the
newscaster announce that, starting today, the American government has
declared that the nutrition of its citizens is a very important issue.
Poor nutrition results in decreased productivity, increased health
care costs, and additional cost for the airline industry due to
seating redesigns. In its infinite wisdom, the government has decided
that from now on, it will take responsibility for your personal
nutritional intake.

Glancing down at your bowl of Frosted Flakes, a twinge of fear enters
your heart.

As the report continues, you hear that each state will be responsible
for setting up government-controlled restaurants, and that all adults
over age 18 will be required to spend a certain number of hours
(generally 8am to 3pm) in these facilities for about 9 months out of
the year, for 12 years, eating at these restaurants. Naturally, this
upsets you. Turning off the television, you start to get ready for
work, hoping you simply swallowed some mouthwash earlier and the
alcoholic content was causing hallucinations.

Just then, you hear a knock at the door. To your surprise, there is a
police officer standing there.

“Excuse me, sir/ma’am. Would you mind explaining why you aren’t in
restaurant today?”

“I beg your pardon?” you exclaim, suddenly coming to grips with what
is taking place.

“According to state law, you are required to be in restaurant at this
time. If you don’t comply, there will be legal ramifications.”

“Why can’t I just eat what I want, when I want?”

The officer explains that, technically, you can. But this new shift in
the power structure has had some interesting effects. Due to the fact
that there are now a large number of government-run restaurants, and
that the majority of the population will be required to attend them,
nearly all other restaurants have been put out of business. Those that
remain are required to follow government-set menus, cooking methods,
and more. For the most part, the only privately-owned restaurants left
are so expensive only the elite can afford to eat there — and are
still required to be there all day.

You ask “why can’t I simply buy my own groceries, read cookbooks and
nutrition manuals, and cook my own meals at home, on my own schedule?”

The officer rolls his eyes, then replies “Well, I suppose, but we’d
still have to monitor you. We can’t trust that you wouldn’t just eat
junk food all day, so you would still be required to follow government
standards, and we have rules about the qualifications of the people
who cook food for you, and you’d have to see a government-set
nutritionist every year — to make sure you’re following the rules.
You’ll have to provide them with a daily meal plan, just so we can be
sure.”

He then adds “But everyone you know will be in the restaurants. You’ll
be home all alone. How will you get any socialization?”

You start to mention all the teenagers running the grocery stores, the
folks at the cookbook store, not to mention the folks you’d interact
with at the bank, post office, library, your job, and all the other
places all day. “It’s not like I’d be sitting at home just cooking and
eating all day — there’s a whole world out there.”

But eventually, you give in to pressure from friends, family,
neighbors, and government officials. While you’d rather cook at eat
your own food, it hardly seems to be worth the hassle anymore.

Getting off the restaurant bus, you step into the building. It’s
obvious most of the other people you see don’t want to be there,
either. They had plans of their own today. Some people seem to be
truly happy – they were very hungry and actually like the menu.

For efficiency, 20 to 30 people are stuffed into a single booth. You
start to introduce yourself to your booth mates, only for the waitress
to approach and say “I’m going to have to ask you all to quiet down,
please.” So much for socializing.

You ask the waitress for a menu, only to be told your order has
already been made. “Don’t we get to choose what we want to eat?” you
ask. She informs you that if there is any funding left, you can pick a
dessert at the end.

The meal comes – it’s some kind of casserole. You take a taste – no
flavor whatsoever. Everyone in the restaurant has been given the same
meal. Seeing as how it is only 10pm, you’re not really hungry yet.

The waitress comes by. “You need to eat that.” You explain that you
aren’t hungry yet, and ask if you can save it for lunch. “No, you’ll
have another plate at lunch. And you’d better hurry — the eleven
o’clock plate will be here before you know it.”

“I have to eat a plate of this every hour?!” you exclaim. She assures
you that the contents and portions have been measured by government
nutritionists, and they know exactly what and how much food the
average American adult needs to consume to be healthy.

You look around the restaurant, failing to see any “average” American
adult. “What’s in the food, anyway?” You ask the waitress.

“I’m not sure,” she replies. “I don’t cook it, I just serve it.”

Jump ahead twelve years. Americans are even more unhealthy than
before, especially considering whenever they see food in real life,
they shun or mock it. You avoid eating whenever you can, after having
it shoved down your throat for over a decade. You still don’t
understand why the food you ate was nutritious, and tend to gravitate
towards junk food when you are hungry.

Sounds ridiculous, right? Now why, when we apply this same story to
education, instead of eating, does it sound like normal, everyday life?

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