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Don’t eat killer fruit!

Posted by Graeme in parenting,Politics at 4:53 am on Thursday, 12 July 2007

One of the reasons given by The Guardian for the failure of a scheme to encourage children to eat more fruit, is that schools are reluctant to give children fruit with stones because they might choke. What is even more amazing is that the journalist writing it could let this idiocy, and the disturbing reasons for it, pass with absolutely no comment.

What exactly was she thinking? That we should be grateful that children are being conscientiously protected from the dangers of killer fruit? Perhaps we should also keep them swaddled till they are 18 to stop them hurting themselves?

The whole point of the scheme was to encourage children to eat more fruit and vegetables to reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease. How many people do you know who have died of choking? How many do you know who have died of cancer and heart disease? Which danger is more important?

The reason for this is clear. If a child chokes in school today, it is the school’s problem. Teachers will have to look after the child. In today’s ludicrous legal climate the school could even be sued. On the other hand, if a child gets cancer, be it next year or on fifty years time, it is not the school’s problem. That is quite an agency problem.

I find this worrying. If schools neglect children’s long term interests to look after the short term in this context, surely they will do it in others? We should not be surprised when teaching is geared to passing the next exam, rather than genuinely improving children’s understanding. Why should expect keeping them quiet today to be more important than encouraging self-discipline.

Of course, the scheme was doomed to failure anyway. The children are avoiding fruit not because they cannot get it, but because they do not want it, and parents are not sufficiently motivated to do anything about it. Handing out fruit in school is not going to change anything, except make the government look like it is doing something.

At least it has proved two things. This sort of government intervention is futile, and schools will sacrifice children’s future for their present.

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