The boy who knew too much: a child prodigy

This is the true story of scientific child prodigy, and former baby genius, Ainan Celeste Cawley, written by his father. It is the true story, too, of his gifted brothers and of all the Cawley family. I write also of child prodigy and genius in general: what it is, and how it is so often neglected in the modern world. As a society, we so often fail those we should most hope to see succeed: our gifted children and the gifted adults they become. Site Copyright: Valentine Cawley, 2006 +

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Is school food junk food?

When I was at school - which seems both long ago, and not long ago at all - the food was generally filling, stodgy, and rewarding to childish appetites - that is, not healthy at all, in general. Some things don't change. School food today, is, in many places, just as worrisome - perhaps more so.

Yesterday, Fintan went on a school trip. He enjoys these for they give him a chance to see the wider world in operation. His school seems particularly fond of these external activities and not a month passes by without its quota of such visits to places of all kinds.

After he had come home, he enthused about what he had eaten. "I had bread with sugar on it...and french fries." he told us.

I couldn't quite believe what he had said, but I didn't need to ask him to repeat it - for he did so anyway. I think he knew these were things we would not feed him - and so, in this context, they were a kind of treat.

We raised the matter with his school since I, for one, was concerned that this might constitute his daily diet, at that school.

"Today? Oh, when they go on a trip - the teacher makes sure they have a snack."

There are many snacks in the world - but I am not sure that "bread with sugar on it" qualifies as reasonable food for a child - or an adult or even animal for that matter. Some things just should not be eaten - and something so evidently lacking in nutritional wisdom is one of them.

There is a readily available snack, that is lightweight, portable, nutritious - and, in this part of the world, at least, inexpensive. It is called a piece of fruit. Why don't schools think - really think - of the health of their charges and organize a little trip to the supermarket, before any such school trip, so that teachers don't end up buying the kids plastic, empty, life-threatening junk foods?

It mystifies me, that after so many decades and so many generations of protest about school foods - that they should still consist of the most unhealthy choices available, in many places.

I have never eaten "bread with sugar on it" in my life - and I don't see why my four year old child should be fed it while under the care of his school. That sentiment applies to the French fries, too.

The last thing a parent wants is for the school to instil in the child, a taste for junk food. Such a hankering can become a lifelong desire - with disastrous consequences for the child (who will thus become an unhealthy, short-lived adult).

Schools should understand that they have greater responsibilities than just the education of their students: they need to attend to their health and happiness, too.

(If you would like to read more of Fintan, four years and one month, or his gifted brothers, Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, seven years and eight months, and Tiarnan, eighteen months, please go to: I also write of gifted education, IQ, intelligence, child prodigy, child genius, baby genius, adult genius, savant, the creatively gifted, gifted children and gifted adults in general. Thanks.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 10:00 AM 


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh boy. It sounds like school food at Fintan's school is just as junky as what my kids got at preschool. I have to wonder why people feel they need to feed my child some kind of junk every hour or two. Do they think that feeding them this stuff will improve the children's behavior?

Even worse, I was furious when I found out that the Kindergarten teacher was offering my daughter peanut-butter filled chocolate candy as a reward! The idea of rewarding kids with candy is bad enough, but my daughter is fatally allergic to peanuts. If she had eaten that candy, it could have killed her! I don't think people should be offering my kids any food without my permission. I send a snack and a lunch to school with them. They don't need anything more.

1:14 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Perhaps, as you hint, junk food is fed to kids to placate them - to hush them up with all that gooey rubbish.

You are lucky, indeed, that your daughter did not suffer an anaphylactic shock as a result of the proffered "reward". It is not your kid alone who should not eat such empty junk - no kid should.

Maybe your idea of a packed lunch is the way forward. Schools, the world over, cannot be trusted to be responsible in the matter of food for children. What a shame that is.

7:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a huge issue in the United States and has pitted parents against school systems in many areas. The sad fact is that sugar and fat are extremely inexpensive sources of calories. They fill the kids up for very little money. I think this problem came about for economic reasons.

8:46 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Ah yes. Money. I think that is the most reasonable explanation in Singapore, too, for why the nastiest of foods end up on our children's plates at school: they are the CHEAPEST and therefore most profitable choices, for the school system. (Or if notionally no profit is being made, the least expensive choice).

I wish, I really wish, that the modern world put other values before money. But it doesn't.

Shame on it.

9:32 PM  
Blogger EbTech said...

You have not seen the worst! One day care centre "activity" was to make peanut butter balls. Care to guess the ingredients? There were only three: butter, icing sugar, and peanut butter. You simply mix and roll them up with your hands!

Our ancient instinctual tendency toward fat and sugar is severely dysfunctional in a modern society, where such things come cheaply.

3:43 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

That sounds YUCK!

9:34 PM  

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