The Parent Teacher Association or as it is more commonly known, the PTA is a formal organization composed of parents, teachers and staff and is intended to facilitate parental participation in the school. With the Peanut now in kindergarten, Vans and I are experiencing public school and this organization for the first time. Actually there is even a NATIONAL PTA and their mission as quoted on their website is “The overall purpose of PTA is to make every child’s potential a reality by engaging and empowering families and communities to advocate for all children.” Sounds pretty awesome right? I mean, what can be better than “engaging and empowering families” and being an “advocate for all children.” Impressive no?
Well hold onto your girl scout cookies when you hear the story I am about to tell you about my recent run-in with our local PTA. It had me fuming enough to write this post and I hope it inspires you to investigate your own PTA organizations.
The background: Peanut attends public school but this particular public school resides in a very affluent area in Northern California. Mind you, not ALL of the families that attend this school are well-off but I would venture to guess, that the majority of them are living comfortably. Now there is nothing wrong with that. I have no problems with it. Vans and I work very hard and some might say we are pretty well off as well and I wouldn’t disagree but we also are in the minority when it compares against other families in our daughter’s school. What does this mean? Why does income even matter in this story? Sadly, money is a driving force for a lot of people. To many, if it doesn’t make money than it isn’t worth the time or in this case, our children’s health. Stay with me here, it gets better.
So this school hosted a Harvest Festival. The Peanut was super excited to attend as her class was to perform a song on stage for the parents. So on a beautiful Saturday morning the entire Trailmomma family loaded into the car and attended the Harvest Festival. While walking around I noticed a few little boys (probably 7 or 8 years old) walking around with half empty two liter bottles of soda. I sort of thought that odd and I secretly was hoping that they were just carrying the soda some where and not actually consuming it.
It was then that I noticed one of the game booths. It was “ring toss” where you toss a little ring onto what appeared to be a bunch of soda bottles. No big deal right? Well if the kids connected they received a two liter bottle of soda…AS A PRIZE!! So yes, those little boys had been consuming what appeared to be a lot of soda directly from the bottle. I looked around and there were lots of kids (and parents) carrying soda bottles! I was saddened by this and it prompted me to write a letter to the president of the PTA (since this Harvest Festival was organized by the PTA). I was pretty polite in my letter. Here, see for yourself:
Hi there, thank you for the Harvest Festival. My daughter is in kindergarten and this was our first ever Harvest Festival. She had a great time so thank you.
There is one thing I’d like to bring up however that concerned me involving the “ring toss” game. While the game and the idea is fine, I have to really disagree with the use of soda. Before I even saw the game itself, I saw 7, 8 and 9 year olds each walking around with a half empty two liter bottle of soda. At first I thought they were carrying them to the concession stands or food area but then I realized that was their “prize” in the ring toss. Really?
I won’t go into the unhealthy aspects of soda or what it does to a child’s tooth enamel as I am sure you must be aware. Please reconsider this game next year. It is sending a terrible message to our children or at the very least do not let the soda be awared as a prize although I caution against even supporting the soda industry by purchasing two liter bottles to begin with.
I know, “to each their own” and I didn’t let my child participate in that specific game as she found plenty of others to play but if we can help our children avoid the amount of sugar contained in soda, we’d all be better off.
Thank you again for your time and for all that you did. I will continue to support the PTA and perhaps next year will participate in the Harvest Festival planning.
Be honest, is there anything truly insulting or mean about that letter? Okay so maybe the “Really?” was a little unnecessary but I wanted to make a point. A few days had gone by and finally I received a response from the president of the PTA. Her email alone has started an avalanche within my head of emotions and anger that I literally had to stop and count to ten after I read her letter. Here is what she wrote:
Greetings Trailmomma,Thank you for your message and for providing feedback. Truthfully, the health risks of soda is not debatable, I’m a pharmacist and my husband is a physician. But I’d like to provide some background information, and then I have a request.The soda ring toss game brought in slightly over $1,500 in net revenue at the 2013 Harvest Festival. There was no cost to run the game because the soda was 100% donated by parents and grocery stores (about 70%, 30% respectively). The PTA will use the $1,500 in revenue to pay for an electronic reading program (“RazKids”) that your Kindergarten student will use in Kindergarten and 1st Grade.Therefore, eliminating the game is not an option. The benefits clearly outweigh the risks. But replacing the game with an equally high-earning game could be considered. Which is where my request comes in. Please consider championing a replacement game. This could be accomplished by researching PTA/PTO blogs/articles/websites and consulting outside friends/family to investigate what school carnival games are wildly popular for similar demographics and age. The PTA would consider your proposal for a replacement game, and if approved, would be run head-to-head against the soda ring toss at the next Harvest. This could solve the issue without sacrificing needed funds.Best Regards PTA President
So I plan on responding to her email (again) and to explain my point (again). My intention is to respond with respect and maturity however, I am not entirely sure how much I’ll be able to muster without really bringing to light all the things WRONG with her response. Which leads me to this blog post. Here, I am allowed to write what I want. Here, I am allowed to write the truth.
Dear PTA President:
First and foremost the disclosure of you and your husband’s professions make your email one hundred times more sad although not entirely surprising. I have no doubts that you are smart educated people but both of your professions have no background in nutrition. Both of your professions are geared towards prescribing pills, basically band-aids to mask many problems that can be purely avoided or healed by a better intake of nutrition and the basic understanding of how what you consume nutritionally will determine your medical course in life.
With that aside, it seems that you place the health of your children and the health of all children at the school at about $1500. Is that about right? You said “the benefits out weigh the risks” in your letter. So $1500 is better than a child who will develop diabetes? Or perhaps a child with ADHD? $1500 is way more important than childhood obesity which is running rampant in our nation. $1500 is more important than an elementary school student having massive tooth decay and a mouth full of cavities? $1500 is clearly more important than a child who develops cardiovascular disease from consuming soda filled with caffeine and sugar. You would rather sacrifice the health of our children for money?
You said your husband was a physician right? So he must have read the study published in The Journal of Pediatrics that found children who consume large amounts of soda per day experience more aggression, withdrawal and attention problems. It sounds however that you are willing to sacrifice those issues for $1500.
In your email you say that you want me to “champion” a replacement game that is as “equally high earning” and then later state that my game would go head to head with “ring toss” at the next Harvest. Clever Mrs. President. That means next year you’ll have the opportunity to bring in even more money. Perhaps a tactic to not only get the PTA some cash but also make you feel less guilty for handing out poison to our kids? Something tells me that “ring toss” would not be resigned from the list of games even if another game “out-did” it.
I can accept your challenge to find a new game however I just simply want to know, why do the 2 liter bottles have to be filled with soda!? Why can’t they be 2 liter bottles filled with water? Why can’t we call upon our families to RECYCLE (another noble thought) any 2 liter plastic bottle they come across and fill them with WATER!? Imagine that? Same effect without the carcinogenic poison being introduced to our children.
Clearly money is at the heart of the matter here. Not the health and well-being of our kids. If that is the case, I will scour the streets and parks to recycle as many bottles and cans as I need to raise $1500 so that at the next Harvest Festival, the children (and parents) at this school won’t have to pay money to consume carbonated crap as a prize.
Whew, that felt good. Tell, me do you really want to see these two beautiful faces (or your own kids) consuming soda? I don’t.