State Sen. Campfield to TN kids: "The beatings will continue until morale improves!"

Or rather, in this case, "The starvings will continue until your grades improve!"

By which I mean, he has proposed a bill to punish the families of underachieving children on public assistance by decreasing their TANF allotment (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, ie, food and living subsidies).

"How are your grades, little Timmy?  Well, no pressure or anything, but we could get kicked out of our apartment and end up in a shelter if your grades aren't up to snuff!  Have a great day at school, kiddo."  Because as we all know, children learn best under pressure and threats of starving their whole family.  It's a motivation thing.

And the whole ugly affair gets even grosser, if you read his own words on the subject:
One of the top tickets to break the chain of poverty is education. To achieve a quality education is like a three legged stool. The state has put a lot of responsibility on schools and teachers to improve student performance. If the children don't produce, it could impact the pay of the teacher and the standing of the school with the state. We have pushed two of the three legs of the student performance (teachers and schools) to improve, and they are. ... The third leg of the stool (probably the most important leg) is the parents. We have done little to hold them accountable for their child's performance. What my bill would do is put some responsibility on parents for their child's performance.
First of all, "If the children don't produce"?  Produce?  Are we talking about schools here, or child labor factories?  Come on, Mr. Campfield, let that ill-fitting compassion mask slip a little further and show us the full extent of your disdain for poor children and how you're already seeing them as future disposable worker-commodities.

Secondly, are you just completely unaware of the fact that children are dependent upon their parents to provide food/shelter/etc.?  Children don't exist in a vacuum.  Putting "responsibility" and "accountability" - ie, punishments - on the parents transfers those effects directly to the kids, who are relying on their parents to be able to care for them.  So you can cloak it in "parental responsibility" language all you like, but it still comes out to punishing children for bad grades by TAKING THEIR FUCKING FOOD AND HOUSING AWAY.  And there is absolutely no possible circumstance in which that is anything but a hideously, grossly unethical and immoral thing to do.  (But of course, Stacey Campfield has a 100% rating with Tennessee Right to Life, and sponsored a bill in 2007 to issue death certificates to aborted fetuses.  He's very consistent that way.  All about caring for the lives of children, amirite?)

Thirdly and most importantly, this completely and utterly fails to take into account the sorts of structural barriers to excelling at school that poor children ALREADY FACE.  Kids are already under stress when their family is struggling with poverty, both stress within the family - especially if there are issues of food scarcity, which has effects on a child both physiologically and psychologically - and from the fact that kids are evil, nasty, bullying little shits sometimes, and poor kids make a great target for that kind of bully.  Additionally, children who have learning disabilities or illnesses - mental or physical - that make school more difficult are less likely than their economically well-off peers to receive the interventions and accommodations they need, which further sabotages their ability to do well in school.  Then you have older - teenage - kids in poverty-level households who may well be trying to hold down jobs in order to help their families get by, which takes time away from schoolwork.

He frames it as "Parents are responsible to make sure their kids are ready for school and that they get an education." Which, again, shows stunning ignorance of what families in poverty are having to do to get by.  Parents who are struggling to make ends meet often just don't have time to do the suburban-middle-class "make sure your kids have a nutritious breakfast, drop them off at school, pick them up after school, and help them with their homework" thing.  That takes time and energy that the parents are already expending just trying to make ends meet.

So to sum up, this absurdity of a proposal specifically targets those children who are already struggling the most with school, sets up a hard-line target that doesn't take any variance in circumstances into account, then threatens to punish those who don't meet the requirement by pushing their whole fucking family even further into poverty.

What part of that sounded like a good idea to you, Senator?

And is it just me, or is there a "welfare queens" sort of dogwhistle in there, too?  The whole thing, especially the fact that it hinges on rhetoric of "parental responsibility" and parents "not doing their job [of making sure their kids do well in school]", seems designed to evoke the image of lazy welfare-dependent adults who are just not bothering to help their kids out of apathy or spite.

See, class, here we have a truly stunning shitshow of ignorance, arrogance, classism, racism, and paternalism, held together with BOOTSTRAPS GODDAMNIT.

Congratulations, Mr. Campfield.  You are officially the douchiest Republican I've seen in the last few days.  Which, considering the state of your party, is actually kind of an accomplishment.  I hope you can look back fondly on this experience from your post-political career in the very near future after the people you claim to represent toss you out on your ass.


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