A new state law requires parents to show proof of a dental exam before their kids can enroll in a New Mexico public or charter school.
The rationale is sound: tooth decay and cavities “can cause pain, absence from school, difficulty concentrating on learning, and poor appearance, all problems that greatly affect quality of life and ability to succeed,” according to the CDC.
The problem is, nobody believes dental exams will pull New Mexico schools out of its last-place rank nationally.
New Mexico ranks 23rd in childhood obesity, at 15.2%, which is welcome news for residents who are elated any time the state isn’t last place in something. But if cavities and tooth decay are the issue and low-quality food is the culprit, how long before New Mexico takes the proverbial bull by the horns and mandates low-calorie school lunches for fat kids or forces parents to provide an exercise log of their children’s physical activity?
Why not send social workers door to door to evaluate household diets and scour fridges and pantries for the sweets and carbs that contribute to poor oral hygiene?
How long before the state requires parents to prove they’re sending their kids to bed at a reasonable hour each night so they’re well-rested for school the next day?
And where’s the online portal for “voluntary” parenting classes, and how long before the creep of government makes those voluntary “services” mandatory?
For those who scoff at these suggestions as mere slippery slope fallacies, 2021 has proven that slippery slope isn’t a fallacy at all. Where government believes it can, it will, slowly at first, for your well-being of course, then more and faster and harsher until your livelihood is destroyed and you are barred from going to church.
That we’re facing dental exams as a condition of school enrollment at all is proof of the many arms of this growing government leviathan.
And for what?
If there are states with worst childhood dental hygiene that nonetheless rank higher in education than New Mexico, why are we doing this at all? Or, for the do-gooders who think the state can raise your children better than you can, why aren’t we doing more?
The answer is: we likely will.
If you “trust the science” whenever the government says to, the science shows that single-parent households are correlated with negative education outcomes in students compared to two-parent households.
Where’s the state government when it comes to mandating marriage or lecturing women about being better sexual selectors?
If the science says reading to your kids is directly correlated with higher literacy rates, how long before New Mexico forces nightly reading or proof that you’re helping your kids with school work?
It’s only a matter of time before those mandates come, in the form of paternalistic opt-in nudging or outright requirements barring enrollment if you haven’t checked all the right boxes.
But there’s reason to believe even that won’t solve the problem. For one, the state will never bar enrollment to students because they’re too fat, too tired, or their teeth are too crooked. And secondly, the problem with New Mexico education isn’t too-little government intervention.
The problem is parents, undisciplined children, and a school system that values social studies over shop class, foreign language over personal finances, and test scores over hands-on learning that identifies children’s strengths and puts them on an academic path that will lead to a useful career.
For parents who homeschooled or oversaw at-home e-academy-type learning during the pandemic, it became clear pretty quickly that our education system is a joke.
The amount of time it takes students to listen to the lectures and complete the school assignments topped out at two or three hours a day, which forced a lot of parents to wonder what it was their children were doing all day prior to the pandemic.
The answer is, nothing. Smart kids who are well-behaved are virtually ignored by teachers who are forced to keep order in class by directing their attention (disciplinary and academic) to the children who misbehave or need extra help. Public education New Mexico is an overpopulated day-care program.
It’s not a problem any one person can solve. Nobody seems to have an answer. But what we do know is a dental exam won’t cure New Mexico’s ailing education system.
At best, dental exams are more red tape the school administrators can pat themselves on the back for and say, “We’re helping!” At worst it’s Big Government inserting itself into the personal lives of private citizens, and that’s a slippery slope that will only grow into more invasive policies.