Does a Teacher Really Need to Remind Kids, "Hydrate!"
A teacher wrote to me worried that either she's going crazy -- or her students' parents are. They've started giving their kids bottled water to keep at their desks, and begging her to remind them, throughout the day, to drink.
"Have I lost it completely in thinking that learning to drink when you're thirsty is one of the key parts of growing up?" the teacher asks. "While water is obviously important, it doesn't seem to kill kids to be without it for a couple of hours. A shocking number of parents act like it's insulin for their diabetic children. Am I crazy?"
Well if she is, so am I, because in this issue I see three societal evils converging. (Okay, like I said: We might both be crazy. But hear me out:)
EVIL #1: Bottled water itself. Somehow, we have been suckered into the idea that it is better to drink water that has been siphoned into plastic, shipped to a store, purchased with our hard-earned cash and schlepped home (or to school!) and eventually to the landfill, rather than the stuff that comes out of our taps for pennies.
(On a related note: Why didn't I start a bottled water company?!)
EVIL #2: Somehow we are also convinced that our children need to be "reminded" to do something that they'd do automatically: drink. This is part of a whole culture that assumes that this particular generation is SO VULNERABLE (and DUMB) it cannot survive without all sorts of extra promptings and precautions that never existed before. Precautions that begin with baby knee pads (for crawling) and "movement" classes (as if otherwise our kids would just lay there?), and work their way up to a frenzy of frets: Germs! Sun exposure! Drinking whole milk instead of 2 percent!
Every aspect of childhood is a BIG DEAL we are told to worry about, including the (weird) idea that our kids are going to drop dead of dehydration unless someone constantly reminds them: IF YOUR TONGUE IS TURNING BLACK, IT'S TIME TO REHYDRATE.
EVIL #3: The decline of community, as evidenced by distrust of the good ol' (albeit sometimes gum-filled) drinking fountain. When we give up and say, "To heck with it. I'll just give my kid a Fiji," we are going down a road that gives up on the public and goes private. Think: gated communities. Think: parents driving their kids to school instead of trusting the school bus, or lobbying for a crossing guard. Think of a world where it's every family for itself.
William Blake said if we try, we can "see the world in a grain of sand." Maybe we can see it in a bottle of water, too.
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