COMMENTARY | Granted, the competition for the Most Dehumanizing Legislation Proposed by a Republican is tough, but Tennessee state Sen. Stacey Campfield is certainly throwing his off-size hat into the ring. He wants to take food away from kids who don’t get good grades.
Here’s the summary of SB 0132 : “Welfare — As introduced, requires the reduction of Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) payments for parents or caretakers of TANF recipients whose children fail to maintain satisfactory progress in school.”
Blog MamaPundit points out that this is not Campfield’s first foray into the absurd and offensive. Campfield, in the spirit of the absurd and offensive, has even written a post himself about how great his idea is.
So let’s get into why it’s so unconscionable, and not one of the “three legs” of education, as he describes in his post. Yes, apparently he thinks education is some kind of stool or tripod, but the clumsiness of his metaphor is the least of his transgressions.
Imagine you are a child on public assistance. Let’s say you are 9. You live in subsidized housing, or you live in a dicey neighborhood because that is all that your parents can afford. Though you don’t know the details, you have a shadowy idea that you get money from the government or something. Your mom uses a special debit card at the grocery store.
Your school is not the best-funded, given that you are living in a low-income area, and you’re having problems with your school work. You may try your best and not do well. Sometimes you’re too hungry to focus, because even with assistance, you don’t always get enough food.
Then you get a bad report card. Suddenly, instead of sparse food, you have no food. And your family has no food.
And it’s all your fault.
The uncompromising cruelty of this proposed legislation is dizzying, as it places the responsibility for economic stability squarely on the backs of children. In a way, it’s no different than putting them to work in a factory, as they are expected to “earn” the food in their bellies.
Again, we’re talking about children.
I cannot imagine Campfield telling his own children that if they don’t get good grades, he’s taking away their home, their electricity, their food. We’re not talking about going to bed without supper, which is its own kind of cruelty, we’re talking living without food, about making economically insecure families more so.
And you have a hungrier, discouraged, guilt-ridden child even less likely to succeed in school, which runs counter to Campfield’s patter that this punitive scheme has anything whatsoever to do with academic achievement.
Government assistance is not a treat you give to a dog when it learns a new trick or sits at the curb before crossing. It is aid to make desperate lives that much less desperate.
The one thing that is obvious from Campfield’s proposed bill is that he views poor children as something different, something other than children. He sees them tiny burdens who need to start pulling their families’ weight as soon as possible.
Children, no matter their economic status, are not tiny burdens. Children — no matter how hungry, how homeless, how challenged in life and in school — are children.