The past two days I’ve been privileged to dine at la Cafe Lunchroom. It’s the annual “Invite Your Parents to Lunch” where we sprawl on the floor, chat with our kids and our girlfriends and the PTA doles out chocolate chip cookies. There’s a lot of beauty to embrace at these events, but I think this is my favorite sight:
To me, nothing else so aptly displays democracy in America as serving lunch in public schools. Rich or poor, honor student or struggling to pick up English–every child takes their turn scooping up mystery meat, wiping tables and sweeping floors.
The boys tell me there is no debate about lunch duty in the classroom. Scanning a checklist, the teacher simply sends out the next group. And the kids have fun with it– they decorate their paper hats, mingle with kids they might not meet otherwise and collect a free meal at the end of their shift.
It all changes when the kids go to jr. high. Lunch workers have to be compensated for the shame of serving and cleaning up after their classmates. And by high school lunch workers are forced to develop their own subculture.
But in the sublime world of elementary kids, equality and cheerful willingness reign supreme.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal– with a rice krispie treat on each tray.