by Jeanne Belovitch
"Take off your coats,” Principal Cunningham gently orders. "You don't feel well because you're too hot,” he explains in a soothing voice. “Your body needs to be free. This will keep your mind alert. Sit up in your chairs. It's not healthy to wear too many clothes inside.”
The boys and girls stare back at him trance-like. One by one, the jackets come off, and they sit up straight. For that brief moment, they are a captive audience, ready to learn. But the principal leaves the room, the teacher is a substitute, and pandemonium breaks out again.
Why do these children feel so threatened that they prefer to keep their jackets on, so at a moment's notice they can easily flee?
A big transparent plastic container filled half-way with masticated bubble gum of every color sits on a teacher's desk. It's grotesque. The kids don't like looking at it much either. But that's where the gum goes when a kid is caught chewing it. This teacher actually enforces the age-old rule: no gum chewing in school. Others try. Most don't bother. Gum chewing is a minor concern compared to the junk food consumed in these classrooms during the school day.
Enough chips, artificially sweetened fruit juices, bags full of “penny candy,” donuts, Twinkies, cans of soda, and flavored suckers called Stix come into this school daily to maintain the stock in a corner store. The kids with the food try to eat it on the sly. The kids without are figuring ways to steal some for themselves. A good deal of physical activity is engaged in this interaction between the haves and the have nots – a pattern that comes natural to them.
The "food crisis" left unchecked signals the breakdown of discipline in the classroom and eventual disorder. Outbursts of swearing
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