Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Why We Need to Read Carefully - My Response to the Backlash Against "The Peanut Problem"

A father with a picky-eater for a daughter finds out that he can no longer send the trusty ol' peanut butter sandwich to school. Instead of asking what his options are, his first instinct is that his civil liberties have been violated, because he can't feed his daughter the easiest thing around.

In the article, "The Peanut Problem", the father provides his vision of an appropriate environment for school-aged children with food allergies.

"Take the children with allergies out of the school. Open a school where they can be really safe – everyone will wear one-piece coveralls, the air will be filtered, and all food will be controlled by the school. Then they will be really safe – and everyone else can go to school with peanut butter sandwiches."

Danielle McLaughlin, the author and director of education at the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and Education Trust, then goes on to say that while the father's suggestion might seem discriminatory, it raises some great questions, like if the peanut ban is really necessary and does it work. The point of the article comes in the last little bit:

"We want our children to think critically and to consider the needs and rights of people who may differ from them. Children who learn more than just a rule will understand they have a responsibility to others. Thinking about peanut butter can help them practise the habits of democracy."

Unfortunately, I'll admit it took a second reading for me to get this. I even had to remove my backlash tweet, because I was wrong.

McLaughlin is not agreeing with the father. What she's saying is that the rule alone isn't enough. All parents and kids get from a rule is that they can't do something they want to do, but they don't understand why. They don't understand that it's about being a responsible citizen. You don't smoke in cars with children and you don't bring peanut butter to school.

Sadly, what is a great message got lost when she decided to use an incredibly ignorant person as an example. For the record, his suggestion doesn't just "look absurd or discriminatory". It is definitely both. However, this should be a lesson for everyone to read more carefully in case Rick Perry's recent gaffe wasn't reason enough.

Note: I posted this as a result of a post by Allergic Living on its Facebook site on November 2, 2011.


  1. Hi Tristan! Just reading this post after seeing you on Twitter via Kids with Food Allergies. We appreciate people like you who enable our food allergy community to be heard and have a voice. It is sad when people have not yet learned to truly empathize with others and unfortunately many people remain unaware that food allergies (particularly nut allergies) can be deadly. My colleague, Jill Robbins just wrote a blog post about this same topic. We'd love to hear your thoughts - the more we can get people talking, the better it is to help bring awareness to these issues that affect our kids at school.

    Thank You Again,
    Kira Morehouse
    Intern @ HomeFree

  2. I try to educate my baby's school by writing newsletter articles and spending the time with teachers.