By Kelsi Peace, Managing Editor
I might owe a healthy pallet to delicious milk chocolate M&M’s, but I also owe an expectation of rewards to that same package.
As a little girl, I avidly sucked my thumb, which lead my exasperated mother to set up the “M&M system,” in which I was awarded a certain amount of the chocolate candies for each day I did not sin.
Ten years of dental work later, my mom’s M&M plan probably spared me more agony- but it also taught me that performing unpleasant tasks required rewards to ease the pain.
But a handful of M&M’s for a four-year-old sets a different precedent entirely from the one Seminole County, Fla., schools just established.
Kindergartners to fifth graders who earn A’s or B’s or miss two or fewer school days enjoy a McDonald’s Happy Meal for their efforts, The New York Times reported Thursday.
The district’s corporate partnership with McDonald’s follows a 10-year partnership with Pizza Hut, simply continuing an extremely harmful program.
For McDonald’s, the program stands only to benefit. With advertisements printed on each student’s report card jacket and their product hailed as the “food prize” for achievement, they’re simply watching the next generation of fast food junkies walk through their doors.
The schools involved, however, do a disservice to themselves and their students with this detrimental program, despite the $1,500 to $1,600 they receive from the sponsorship.
Students’ job at school consists of learning and earning the best grades possible. Academics are not a nasty side effect of school, they are its purpose, and students must learn to excel simply because that is their job – not because they can munch on chicken nuggets later.
Also, the childhood obesity epidemic has spurred nutrition programs in the schools – efforts a partnership with McDonald’s undermines.
McDonald’s argues its alternative options- such as apple slices instead of French fries or apple juice instead of soda – counter the unhealthy potential.
But teaching children to reward themselves with any sort of food teaches them unhealthy eating habits and encourages unrealistic expectations of rewards.
As a society, we have clearly stopped cherishing education when we feel compelled to reward children for doing their duty rather than simply praise them for a job well done.
I enjoy M&Ms, but somehow I don’t think my mom will greet me at the door with a package of them when I come home at Christmas -even if I earn good grades.