PJ Media | by Paula Bolyard | February 6, 2023
The next time someone warns me that homeschooled kids will never learn social skills, I’m going to bring up this story.
A mom I know posted on Facebook last week that her daughter received detention at school for talking during lunch. I kid you not.
The offending 4th-grader was cited for “excessive talking” after a boy asked if she wanted his fruit snack. The girl responded with a simple “no,” which was enough for the lunch supervisor to slap her with her first detention. Another parent responded to the post, saying that when she visited the school to have lunch with her kids, she was shocked to learn that they were forced to put their heads down on the table after they finished eating. Not only that, but at this school, the children are forced to sit in rows facing the front of the room and are not even allowed to choose their lunchmates. This is utter madness — and abusive.
To the school’s credit, they rescinded the detention when the parents complained. Unfortunately, it appears that a lot of schools are instituting some version of “silent lunch” in order to… I honestly don’t know what the point is. Some have suggested that if the children are allowed to talk during lunch, they won’t eat, and then… again, I have no idea what the point is. A child is not going to die if he chooses to skip lunch so he can talk to his friends. It would only take a few times going hungry for him to learn to balance his eating and talking time at school.
In a blog post from October, Michael Silva highlighted a comment from a parent (who wished to remain anonymous, fearing the school would retaliate against her children) describing the lunchroom procedures at Keith Junior High School in New Bedford, Mass.:
I don’t know how many parents are aware but at Keith Junior High School and other schools, they have always been heavy on the students not speaking but now they are forcing noiseless lunches.
Recently my child was in trouble in school with some other children. They were forced to write an essay and denied recess due to “talking.” The story isn’t about worked up children forcing conversation. These are brief conversations like the offering of a pencil sharpener as “breaking the rules.”
How do other parents feel about this? Why are they forcing our children to have a military experience at school? Why are they unable to socialize or even offer a kind gesture of a pencil sharpener? My son was forced to do these things for doing what I teach him to do every day! Do other parents find these schools are becoming a little much when it comes to our children?
Keep me anonymous please! Never know with these schools and retaliation. I have children in the public school system. Just want to see if I can get a few parents to speak out and voice their opinion. Most parents are not even aware of this silent lunch rule. The school claims it’s so children don’t choke! Seriously?
But this person named “Debra” thinks silent lunches are a great idea:
As the parent asked, please keep me anonymous. Keith is doing the right thing. In other schools the kids are out of control. Food is wasted and the person on duty simply looks the other way. Lunch is not a place to converse, yes due to choking, a parent would blame the school if their child did choke. Recess is a time for talking. Back in the day we would only speak when we were spoken too by a person of authority and never speak out to other students while in class. The generation of today is allowed to be out of control. Good job KMS this practice should be through the nbps. Anyone with any comment should volunteer, with a background check to witness what goes on in other schools during a lunch shift. Parents also want all to drive around schools as if our children live there yet park on the wrong side of the street and drive like animals on the neighbor streets when picking up their kids. GREAT JOB KEITH MIDDLE SCHOOL.
I don’t know what kind of messed-up school Debra went to, but when I was in school, we all sat where we wanted, talked as much as we wanted, and managed to eat our lunches along the way (while the teachers hung out in the lounge puffing on Virginia Slims and unfiltered Camels).
If kids are out of control, the onus is on the school to remove the disruptive kids. Instead, they punish all the children, forcing them to remain silent during lunch. (These are the same Karens who insist that homeschoolers are anti-social, by the way.)
Debra Maxwell, a “former elementary teacher, MA education,” tried to explain the rationale for silent lunches in a Quora post a few years back and it sounds like a dystopian hellscape where humans are treated like cattle:
First of all because lunch is usually 15–20 minutes and there are kids who spend the whole time socializing and don’t finish their food. Food gets wasted and kids are hungry after lunch. No, they do not figure out that there is a connection between not eating at lunch and being hungry later. Yes, they will continue this behavior day after day even with natural consequences and attempts to help them see the connection.
Second, because the cafeterias get so loud! There is nothing to absorb the sound in a cafeteria, so it reverberates, and because schools are trying to push more than 700 kids through the cafeteria in a period of about 2 hours, the space is packed! It is easier to enforce silent lunch than it is to enforce a reasonable volume. Kids with sensory sensitivities can really be affected by the loud volume. Kids who need to speak with an adult to report a problem or request assistance can’t be heard. Adults and kids can get headaches or even hearing damage from the loud volume.
Third, the lower level of supervision and close proximity makes lunch a great opportunity for bullying or harassment. It’s harder to catch and address misbehavior in a loud, chaotic environment, so enforcing silence can reduce negative peer interaction.
Fourth, kids who are distracted by conversation are more likely to spill which slows down the entire process of moving kids through the cafeteria.
For reference: 700 kids in 2 hours = 5.8 kids through the lunch line every minute. My school had one person at the end of the line monitoring two keypads where kids had to enter their 4 digit pin and wait for confirmation before sitting down. (Have you ever watched a five-year-old who only recognizes half their numbers try to enter a four-digit number onto a keypad? The day that they declared the entire school as a free-lunch school was a happy one! Then the line monitor just had to tally the number of lunches and make sure the kids had taken all the required elements of a free lunch.)
Just a thought, but maybe if they cut back on all the testing, the social-justice training, and the LGBTQ indoctrination, they’d have time for things like lunch and recess.
Some schools, like this one in Dallas, use silent lunch as a punishment, enforcing the policy for days on end without the kids even knowing why they’ve been sentenced to silence.
Other schools, like this one in Rhode Island, instituted silent lunches during the COVID panic. Instead of socializing, the kids are zoned out in front of TVs.
On this teacher forum from nearly a decade ago — yes, it’s been going on for quite some time — one teacher said that it feels “prison-like to expect children (or even adults) to eat in silence.”
“Your school expecting children to follow the no [talking] directive seems pretty grim. When you stop to realize every moment of a student’s life is managed and that recesses and free time activities are being limited [it paints] a stark view of childhood education in America,” she added. “Surely there is another way of managing lunchtime.”
But controlling children’s movements, words, and even their thoughts is a feature of public schools, not a bug.
Another teacher noted that the kids subjected to silent lunches “are ready to crawl the walls when they come back to class.” No kidding.
You can bet the teachers who enforce these policies are allowed to talk in the teachers’ lounge. Can you imagine a group of adults being forced to eat in silence at a work gathering — or anywhere except prison? This is just more evidence that schools are training kids to be obedient cogs in the wheel and, all too often, prison inmates.
If you have children in school, you might want to ask them what’s going on in the lunchroom. If they’re forced to eat in silence, you should raise a stink with the administration. Or, better yet, pull them out and homeschool them.