Saturday, April 05, 2008

Anti-PC Beat Up of the Week

Oteha Valley School in Auckland has achieved global notoriety with a "ban" on children bringing birthday cake to school. In the most recent edition of the school newsletter the principal of Oteha Valley School made the following request to parents:
The tradition [of] taking a cake or sweets to the preschool centre on your child’s birthday has moved into schools over the past few years. However, the Ministry of Education’s new National Administrative Guidelines for healthy eating will not encompass birthday treats... We still love to celebrate your child’s birthday with them but, as from the beginning of Term 2, please do not send any food to share with the class.
I'm not sure when this "tradition" started, or how. My guess is that it's a fairly recent development, started by some status-conscious pander of a parent who decided that their special child wasn't getting their fair share of recognition at the local kinder. Someone who figured that the way to improve their snotty little brat's popularity was to bribe the other kiddies. You can imagine the playground conversations about the little bugger can't you: "Tarquin might be a nathty little thit, but hith mummy maketh real nithe birthday caketh."

By the time I learnt of the story (through Bernard Slattery's blog, Bernard being something of a go-to guy if you're looking for ridiculous anti-PC media beat-ups) that request had been turned into an order:
Oteha Valley School in Auckland has told parents not to allow their children to bring birthday cakes to school for friends to share, The New Zealand Herald reported Friday. (AFP)

CHILDREN in a New Zealand school have been banned from taking cakes to the classroom to share on their birthdays, due to new government guidelines on healthy eating. (The Scotsman, for crying out loud)
In keeping with standard tabloid practice, none of the outlets who carried the "PC killjoys deprive kiddies of birthday cake" bothered with the school's side of the story or checked the school newsletter. Other news organisations weren't so slack:
The principal of an Auckland primary school says the media seems more upset about a ban on birthday cakes than parents are...

Principal Megan Bowden says there were no qualms from students about the loss of their birthday tradition - which has attracted nationwide attention.(New Zealand's TV3)

With 400 students, there is a birthday at least every day at the school. Baking was flying in the door, and Principal Megan Bowden had no choice but to place a ban on the humble birthday cake.

Bowden says the government's healthy food guidelines are one of the reasons for the ban.

But she says many parents were also thinking that it was compulsory to provide birthday cake.

"We think parents shouldn't have to pay out extravagant money just to bring cake to school for their children's birthday. There are lots of other ways of celebrating a children's birthday without having to share food."

Bowden says some parents like to manage what their kids eat, and are unable to do that if dessert is being provided at school.

She estimates sometimes a classroom would have up to four cakes in a week before the ban. (TVNZ
That's right, TV3 and TVNZ actually talked to the school's principal before they got on their high horses about cake-deprived kiddie victims of political correctness and wowserism. The real story, it turns out, is this - a school principal decided to ask parents to desist from a practice that might have been putting other parents to unnecessary expense and undermining the authority of those weird, abberant parents who want their kids to have a healthy diet. That seems an entirely appropriate way to deal with the issue.

One question to finish with - who is actually being deprived here? Is it the kids, or is it those idiot parents who take pride in the fact that little Tarquin always has the biggest and best cake to take to school on his birthday? Think about it.