Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Trapped in Failing Facilities

This week I'm turning this space over to Phineas DeSiecle, of the Reformers for Reformy Reform, a group devoted to finding more widespread applications for the principles of modern education reform.
cafeteria table.jpgI'm writing to you today from outside Uncle Sugar's Big Golden Cafeteria, a failing lunch facility that probably exists in a city near you.

The cafeteria lacks the resources to provide an excellent high-achieving lunch for the students who eat here. The cafeteria does not have enough money to buy high-quality food. The kitchen is understaffed, and there are not enough trays to serve all the students here. Operators of the cafeteria lack the resources to keep the building heated comfortably in the winter. Also, the student group served by the cafeteria include many students with dietary restrictions, food allergies, and eating disorders that they bring with them to every meal. Many of these special needs are difficult and expensive to accommodate. In some cases the needs are daunting; the students with Celiac Disease continue to lose weight and suffer profound health issues no matter how many healthful meals of high quality bread and high achieving pasta they are fed.

Two hundred students are trapped in this failing facility. Trapped, I say. Trapped!!

Some might quibble with my use of the word "trapped." After all, the vast majority of our students and their families actually like the cafeteria well enough to recommend it to others. These people have been hoodwinked by the spectacle of caring trained professionals providing a fundamental human service. They don't understand that the operators of the cafeteria are liars and cheats, because as the customers of the service, they are fundamentally unfit to judge how well their children are being fed.

But here at RRR, we have a solution, a way to rescue those poor, trapped student diners.

First, testing. The eating gap can only be closed by more testing. We propose to take from ten to twenty percent of the food prepared by the cafeteria and instead of feeding it to the students, send it out for testing. We propose to take it to a local outdoor public facility where the food could be fed to animals, weighed, and examined for color and viscosity. This Park test would clearly tell us how well-fed the cafeteria customers are.

Once we have proven that the cafeteria is failing (because, face it, we have already decided it's failing;we just need to generate some numbers for proof) we can move on to further rescue.

Those cries of those poor, trapped two hundred students cannot be ignored. Doomed to eat their meals in an inadequately resources cafeteria simply because it's the one they've been assigned to, those two hundred trapped students must be heeded. They must have a choice.

So we propose to rescue them. Well, not all of them. Actually, we'd like to rescue about ten of them. And we'll decide which ten, thank you. We don't want to be rescuing any old random ten students—we just want our choice of the ones which we find worthy of being rescued.

The remaining one hundred ninety? Well, since we can all agree that the cafeteria is struggling because has too little food, too few trained staffers, and too little financial resource, the solution is obvious:

They should have less.

Once we take 5% of their customer base, the cafeteria will clearly be able to run the ovens 5% less, use 5% fewer light bulbs, and heat 5% less of the building. It's true that we will leave them with all of the high-cost customers, but hey-- how are we supposed to make money at this otherwise?

There are a few other solutions we can also offer. We have had some success with folks from Cook for America, a group of young adults who don't really know anything about preparing food, but like playing with kitchen tools. We did have some complaints about how bad their meals were, but they really mean well, and I think we can all agree that the only thing that matters in food preparation is good intentions.

We'd also like to experiment with a deal in which Uncle Sugar gives the cafeteria to us for our ten customers and the other 190 are encouraged to go seek sustenance elsewhere. After all, what could be more liberating, more choiceful, then being tossed out on the street?

Clearly, the one thing we can't do for the two hundred students trapped in this failing facility is to invest the resources, money and support needed to make the facility a success. Remember the RRR motto: throwing money at public service programs is wasteful, but throwing it at us is awesome!

Originally posted at View from the Cheap Seats