I remember the day I posted a photo of my son drinking Gatorade. People commented about Red Dye #40. It turns out that it’s banned in much of Europe. The US FDA knows it likely makes kids hyperactive, but has not actually banned it.
It seems though that many parents are not waiting for the FDA ban. Parents are banning it themselves.
The same is true for diet soda – sales are plummeting. Despite multitudes of studies that determined diet soda is safe, many people simply don’t believe it. The sugar substitute scares people. (I am scared as well. In 1994 I dated a lawyer for Nutrasweet and he said he stopped eating the sugar substitute right before he quit his job for ethical reasons.) What surprises me, though, is the number of people who simply don’t believe the government has our best interests in mind.
Katherine Jay, writing at Children Deserve Families, describes how US foreign policy does not focus on issues around child welfare because the stakeholders are so powerless. So, while in many cases government does not have our best adult interests in mind, in almost all cases government does not have the best interests of children in mind because children don’t vote.
Steve Jobs wrote about how the schools have the same problem. Government is more interested in keeping the unions happy, because teachers unions have huge turnout in elections. After working hard to use technology to reform schools, Jobs concluded that school reform is impossible given the power of teachers unions.
Quitting Diet Coke and avoiding Red Dye #40 are acts of protest, in a way. Because it’s saying that we don’t trust government to tell us what’s safe. People like Katherine Jay, and people who take their kids out of traditional school, are activists saying that ethical standards are not defined by politicians, but by ourselves.
The homeschooling movement gains traction in the same way that Diet Coke sales drop: one person at a time decides that it’s up to them to align their life with what’s right for them.