Fox News, ever on the lookout for new opportunities to top itself in the art of mind-boggling cruelty, had a segment on Thursday’s Fox and Friends where a commentator suggested that starving kids out is a legitimate strategy to teach important lessons to their parents. In response to a New Jersey school district choosing to withhold lunch from kids whose parents forgot to refill their lunch accounts, Thomas Kersting, who is alarmingly a school counselor, said, “You know, if one day a kid doesn’t have lunch, right, maybe that’s a teaching moment when that kid doesn’t have lunch. That may sound harsh saying that, but we’ve got to get people to start being responsible for themselves.” We’re supportive of a little external discipline here at Slate, but this is going overboard.
To be fair, Kersting’s justification for starving kids is to teach the parents a lesson, but his reasons don’t make a whole lot of sense: “We have more food than any other nation. You know, no kid is going to starve.” Well, yes, there’s plenty of food to go around. That’s why the critics of the policy are mad. They object to throwing perfectly good food in the trash instead of feeding kids who are hungry. Even if a kid has plenty to eat when she gets home, skipping a meal and having low blood sugar means she’s going to struggle to pay attention in class. Presumably, educating the actual students should be a higher priority for schools than teaching abstract lessons to the nonstudent parents about getting their chores done on time.
Fox News has been on something of a hunger-promotion spree lately, creating a misleading special about food assistance programs and sending it to members of Congress in hopes that they’ll drastically cut back on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. It’s unclear if the people behind this new campaign to sell the educational and moral benefits of hunger have ever really gone hungry themselves. It’s a good thing there wasn’t a Fox News during the 1930s, because watching a bunch of overprivileged twits tut-tut about how soup lines eroding the moral fortitude of the unemployed would have probably been more than the nation could bear.