Day By Day© by Chris Muir.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Personal responsibilty versus community responsibility

My son just started a week-long summer camp being held in a local public school. As regular readers know, my children attend a Montessori school, so I've managed to be quite insulated from what's going on in the public school community. What I discovered today is that the public school has enacted a "nut ban," which extends to summer camp programs using the school. No one is allowed to send their child to school with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, or with trail mix, or with other stuff with nuts in it. I think it's an absolutely insane rule. I accept that there are children out there -- lots of them -- who are allergic to nuts and that, among these children, there may be some who have life threatening allergies. Wouldn't the smarter thing be to teach these children never, never to eat any food but their own? And always, always to have an Epipen and always, always to give an extra Epipen to the school? That's the rule at my kids' school, and it works well. Not only does it teach the allergic child the personal responsibility necessary to function in the larger world with a dangerous allergy, it also takes care of the dangerous variables hiding behind the public school's nut ban. For example, I happen to know, because the NY Times once ran an article years ago on the topic, that highly allergic people can have a reaction if the food they are eating was cooked in a pan that once, long before, held peanut products. Families of allergic kids can control that in their own home -- no peanut products, ever -- but how are you going to control that variable in a public school? Does this mean that no family that attends the public school can ever use any peanut products for fear that their child might share with an allergic child a food that was prepared in a pot that, months ago, once held a nut product? I know it's silly of me to be so exercised by this whole thing, especially because it inconveniences me for only a week, but I am. Certainly, I'll be facing this draconian prohibition directly as my kids get into public school, so I guess I can take it personally, More than that, though, I think it's ridiculous to impose a burden like this on an entire community, just to give an illusory sense of security to individuals who desperately need to learn to look out for their own safety.