Letter from the Editor

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Sometimes, you just have to wonder

One of the most popular names for new babies in America today is "Lexus," borrowed from an overpriced car, and right behind it is "Nautica," a brand of expensive clothes. Kids are being named for "L'Oreal" perfume and designer water companies.

This at the same time that 13 million kids live in homes without enough food.

Strange, isn't it? Here are a few more things to consider:

* Mattel makes seven different Barbies with some kind of shopping theme, while 40 percent of the homeless in this country are families with children. At least the doll can afford decent clothes.

* In 48 states, a year of day care for a 4-year-old is estimated to cost more than a year of tuition to a four-year state university. And we wonder why latchkey kids are a problem.

* The Bush "No Child Left Behind" initiative was at one point $17.2 billion behind in providing schools with the funding it was authorized to provide, according to Mother Jones magazine. At the same time, it is estimated that the average public school teacher pays for $521 of their own money each year to pay for their students' school supplies. Somebody's getting left behind, it seems.

* The U.S. has twice as many shopping malls as it does high schools. And of the schools it does have, an estimated 3/4 are in need of repair or modernization. Thank goodness we're taking care of our GAP stores, though.

* FAO Schwartz sold a functioning kid's ATM cash machine for $20,000, and Posh Tots will provide a kid with a model replica of their family's home for up to $40,000, while as of 2000, it was estimated that on average, less than $7,000 a year was spent on a child's public education in Iowa (according to the National Education Assoc.)

* No matter what they show you in those heartwarming sports movies, public schools in the wealthiest neighborhoods win state titles at more than twice the rate of poor school districts. It's hard to throw a block when you're hungry.

* A website sells children's "pimp daddy" costumes for $60. Teenage boys are enticed to buy more than $2.1 billion in beauty products every year. Remember when a guy wanted a pair of "pump-up" tennis shoes to wear to school, not eye shadow and body spray essence?

* On average, states spend almost three times as much per prisoner as they do per public school student. There's priorities for you. And by the time a kid graduates high school, he or she has absorbed 200,000 acts of violence on television. I wonder if that helps keep future business up for those jails.

* 70% of public schools participate in a "business relationship" with corporations. A few years ago, one Florida school district pocketed $50 million for agreeing to sell only Pepsi drinks in the schools. And recently, the American Academy of Pediatrics urged doctors to begin checking blood pressure of kids as young as 3 with obesity rates at alarming levels and piles of sugar and caffeine being consumed. C'mon skim milk, make us an offer.

* Eight in ten Americans say that it is "very difficult" for an average family to afford a college education now. No kidding. But according to one published report, Burger King operates 24 "academies" for high school dropouts. At least the future fast food workforce is assured.

Good luck, little Lexuses - I'm afraid you're going to need it when you inherit all these mixed up priorities.

* Dana Larsen is the editor of the Storm Lake Pilot-Tribune. He can be reached at dlarsen@stormlakepilottribune.com.