Lunchtime Part 1: The Golden Lunchpail

Today’s post/memory dump is brought to you by a article about a school that could possibly top old West Heritage in the WTF department as far as lunchtime practices go. Per the original article, the school punishes students for making a mess of the cafeteria by taking away the hot lunch options for a week.

The article itself is the tip of the iceberg; where normal internet practice says to NEVER READ THE COMMENTS, the comments are exactly where we want to go this time, as we are treated to a variety of WTF tales of the shenanigans that went on in the lunchroom.

As much as the proctors at West Heritage were so easily butthurt about talking during lunch and tried SO HARD to impose Silent Lunch, they were even more drama queeny over littering. But, see, it’s more reasonable to pressure kids into picking up after themselves and maintaining some sort of standard of cleanliness in the environment. Where it got tacky, though, was when the administration introduced the Golden Lunchpail Award (Golden Lunchsack for the lower grades).

The Golden Lunchpail came about with the monthly student achievement assembly, and always came at the end. Like the whole “Star of the Week” crapfest, Golden Lunchpail itself was flawed. Putting aside the “you should not need to reward kids for cleaning up their eating space” thing, it did not have a reliable means of tracking who was most deserving– likely proctors, who were already having their attention tugged in several billion directions as is. (Remember, this was the early 90’s, so it’s not like they could have taken out their iPhones and snapped pictures of each class’ table as evidence.) Thus, there was always the risk of bias and faulty memory at play. Also? The Golden Lunchpail was some kind of candy. It would never, EVER fly today because today’s culture would again throw a fit about using food as a reward in a school environment. Not to mention, the candy wasn’t even good– it was always the crappy Sweet Tarts that nobody liked but that teachers could stock for dirt cheap. Sheesh.

If anything, the token Golden Lunchpail itself was the only appealing part about the program. It was literally a plastic lunch box covered in gold spraypaint and fabric paints and glitter. Same goes for the Lunchsack– literally, a paper bag with gold spraypaint and glitter. Oh, West Heritage, you tried so hard!

The Jezebel post also prompted me to comment on another exercise in futility: communal punishment at the grade school level. My advice on the matter (taking into account that this blog is written by a former student as opposed to a trained educator): DON’T. The theory behind punishing an entire class based on the actions of a few is that the innocent ones who must endure the punishments would shame the guilty. This does not work with young children, who likely will not understand the concept until… perhaps late adolescence? They would not know how to (tactfully) shame their guilty peers in any method short of those that would probably violate the rules, thus extending the cycle of punishment. At best, you’re training the well-behaved kids to be distrustful and paranoid of their peers, and at worst you’re setting up some of the most vulnerable kids for some hardcore anxiety issues down the line; meanwhile, the naughty kids continue as they are, unphased by the consequences of their actions. Again, communal punishment is USELESS on a grade school level.


Next time, we tackle the raison d’etre for this blog: Silent Lunch.

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