We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Watch what you eat…

.. because someone else may be watching, too.

Pippa King is rightly outraged by the bad bargain Bury schools appear to be getting for taxpayer’s money with their their “cashless” fingerprint-based school meals systems. However, I do not think that is the most disturbing element of the story.

There is nothing wrong in principle with using a biometric instead of a separate token to charge an account. And cash-handling is expensive, so you need to minimise it. When I was a child, the school took dinner-money once a week and issued paper tickets: one ticket, one meal. What you ate for your ticket was up to you, though choice was limited. Poor children entitled to free school meals were handed the tickets free, and what money changed hands from whom was invisible to all other children. Each stage involved discrete self-checking transactions in truck/tuck, with no need for continuing accounting for individuals.

Having created individual accounts, the system might still be a simple acounting tool, if those accounts were private. But much more than that is happening here.

Pupils even register points for making healthy choices and are rewarded for healthy eating.

And this being information on ‘risk’ to children – the risk of eating chips, in this case – it will be shared with other authorities, common law confidentiality is expressly excluded [Children Act 2004, s12]. But the information need not be collected; it is because it can be.

The concept of limited government power under law is almost dead: any system in the hands of a British public authority, whatever its ostensible purpose, now acquires a function in surveillance and behaviour control.

5 comments to Watch what you eat…

  • Zeno

    Not only would I be worried about children being ‘coerced’ by authority figures (anywhere from top level head teachers to the lowly dinner ‘ladies’) to eat heathily but I think even the capitalist right of choice is now under heavy attack.

    “You may have any meal you like as long as you choose bland vegetables”

  • Train ’em young.

    Amazing how so much energy can be put towards such mind-warping efforts yet bullying, literacy, manners, grammar etc are just left by the wayside.

  • Nick M

    From my recollections of primary school the provision of free school meals via tickets wasn’t as anonymous as that.

    This strikes me as a technological sledgehammer to crack nuts. It reminds me of a story I read years ago about an attempt to computerize an NHS A&E department.

    Well, after one time too many a particular trauma surgeon had gone to a cubicle expecting a broken leg only to find a knife wound he turned up next shift with a labelled wooden board with nails hammered into it and a collection of washers painted in different colours. Worked like a charm.

  • Gengee

    On a similair note, I am waiing for the day when the Govenrment plunders my wifes TESCO Clubcard data and sends A.A. round to my house for immediate Intervention Counselling 🙂

    My memories of how school dinners were handled are the same as Guys, Monday morning you got in the queue outside the secretarys door and paid or were ticked off and had your ‘dinner tickets’ handed out. How many bowls of pink custard you managed to consume was entirely down to how the dinner ladies felt :-).

    My daughter takes packed lunches to school, my sons school has a pay as you go canteen arrangement so there is no trail of how unhealthily/healthily they eat.



  • Sunfish

    On a similair note, I am waiing for the day when the Govenrment plunders my wifes TESCO Clubcard data and sends A.A. round to my house for immediate Intervention Counselling 🙂

    Why would the government send Abdul al-Azhred to go on about your groceries?