Corporate Reform - A Scary Fable

Once upon a time there was a nation that believed body weight was the most accurate and comprehensive way to assess ability. It had always been thus, and no one ever questioned the validity of the standard.

The nation had many successful women and men who were thin. Because of the apparent correlation between low body weight and success, thin children were always viewed more positively in the culture, as they were deemed more likely to succeed.

Of course not all children were naturally thin, so schools and politicians designed elaborate programs and strategies to make children thinner. Some of these things seemed to work, since schools with very rigid dietary restrictions seemed to produce thinner graduates. Quite a few schools accompanied the dietary regime with very rigorous exercise programs, often dedicating several hours a day to repetitive exercise. These schools were not very much fun, but the slightly reduced average weight of a few graduating classes vindicated the tedium. It was a small price to pay for lifelong success, the schools claimed.

Many large corporations, led by very thin and ambitious executives, sought to capitalize on this alleged success by producing scalable weight loss programs. Some schools, where children were struggling with their weight, were shut down, to be replaced by new schools designed by these corporations and their very thin, successful consultants. Legislatures around the country passed laws calling for closure of schools with excessive average weight and replacing them with these shiny, well-regimented corporate schools. There were many signs and banners in these new schools, extolling the virtues of leanness and citing the many opportunities available to those who complied with the regimen.

A great deal of money was spent developing scales of various kinds. The federal government passed legislation requiring schools to buy scales and weigh children regularly. The government withheld funding until and unless the children lost weight. This was strangely true even if the children were already thin. They were expected to get thinner and were considered failures if they simply maintained their weight. This assessment metric was called "added loss." The irony of the phrase seemed to evade many policy makers. Teachers were also evaluated by the median weights of their children, forcing them to double and redouble their exercise programs and regular weigh-ins. They too were judged by the "added loss" benchmark, contributing to the daily pressure to restrict intake and maximize caloric expenditure. The teachers didn't like this, but they had little choice. Their jobs depended on complying.

Unfortunately, many children didn't fare too well. No matter the diet or exercise, they didn't lose weight. In fact, many of the strictest schools seemed to have success only because they secretly expelled the kids who didn't lose weight or found tricky ways to never take any chubby kids in the first place. Every now and then a report emerged of a child being beaten for sneaking a cheeseburger into school. Humiliation was a regular tactic in some schools, based on the idea that if children felt ashamed, they would eat less and lose weight. Oddly, it seemed that shaming had the opposite effect. Most children who were severely disciplined actually gained weight.

Now and then a report would emerge that countered the claims made by the corporate school organizations. These reports hinted that the actual average weight of the nation's children had not changed at all. What actually happened was that thinner children were clustered in corporate schools with lots of resources and slightly heavier children were left behind in public schools with declining resources. These reports never got much attention, and the corporate schools proliferated and generated handsome profits.

Only after a generation of children was harmed did the citizens of the nation finally realize that thinness was not actually the best way to assess ability and potential. In fact, strict diets and repetitive exercises were harming all children. Some people were very angry and said, "We tried to warn you!"

But it was too late. The corporations had taken over almost all of the system. The people never got their schools back.