Thanks John Campbell

I received this email from a School Principal. The correspondent is known to me and regularly contributes privately via email.

Hi Cam

Thought you would be interested in an exchange that took place in my office earlier today that illustrates the utter nonsense of this “Schools Should Feed Kids’ campaign.

We are a rural, decile 2 school.  As with every school, the decile rating only tells a very small part of the story.  We have some very wealthy families at our school and a number of families that live in a very deprived setting.

A group from one of our Maori whanau arrived in my office this morning.  They had a complaint.  I’m not going to go into the detail of the complaint because they were very respectful about the way that they conveyed it and to some degree I could see where they were coming from.  It was a relatively minor matter (in my view), but could see that it was very important to them, and is largely brought about by different cultural values.

After I (genuinely) apologised for the unintended offence caused by the actions of one of my staff the anger in the room dissipated.  We got to talking about other ‘grievances’ that they wanted to bring to the surface.

Anyway, in the course of the conversation one of the whanau asked me when we were getting ‘breakfasts’ at school.  To this I replied that I had no intention of starting up a ‘breakfast’ regime at our school. I was asked, “Are we promoting food in schools or not?”  My reply, “John Campbell might be promoting this but I am not”.  They asked why.  I explained that when I was asked about my (our) school by outsiders, one of the ways I most often respond is by saying I am proud of the fact that our whanau (families) all care about their kids.  Some are probably very poor by comparison to others but they still put their children first.  Our kids (with the occasional exception) all come to schoolwith lunch.  They are all appropriately clothed.  The vast majority pay their way by paying for trips and stationery and the like.  I don’t often pry into what children have for breakfast but, again, the indication is that food is provided.  Some homes expect their child to get breakfast for themselves and you might argue that the parents could/should provide some more structure for 7 or 8 year olds – but who am I to say they are wrong to expect kids to get their own breakfast.  My pre-schooler gets her own breakfast if she wakes earlier than Mum or Dad.  As far as I am aware, the children at our school are not routinely neglected.  (Note: I am not saying that they are all in happy nurturing homes – but none are starving).

I looked directly at the whanau and said, “That is you guys I am talking about!  You care about your kids.  You feed your kids.  Your kids come to school with lunch.  It is your responsibility to feed your kids and you do it.  So why would I change that?”

This, to my surprise, met with complete agreement.  “Yeah, that’s right,” they said (almost in unison), “we look after our kids”.

One of the whanau then told me how on the occasions she has taken her son to Pac ‘n’ Save he would refuse to nominate what he wanted for lunch because he said that if he took lunch to school the eating time would cut into his playing time. So he preferred to wait untill after school to eat.

Another told me that there was always food in the cupboard, and if there wasn’t her boy knew that he could “go to Aunty’s next door for a feed any time”.

“So are you telling me that you have no real problem having food in the house?”

“Yeah, we always have something,” came the reply.

“So why would the school provide breakfast?  We are here to teach your kids – not to feed them”.

“Well,” I was all ears at this point, “my boys find it hard to get up that early to get breakfast.”

The conversation then shifted to why we were not part of Fonterra’s milk in schools programme.  It followed a similar pattern.  I didn’t sign up for it (largely)  because it would just be another distraction from our core reason for existing:  teaching and learning.

This is only a couple of anecdotes but I think they start to tell some of the real story.  I don’t want to be disrespectful to this whanau.  Their answers were genuine and honest.  They are probably among our poorest, if not the poorest, wider family group in our school.  But doesn’t this conversation say a lot.

When is someone going to present the alternative message to the socialist propaganda.  Schools taking on the responsibility of feeding ‘the poor kids’ will not change their circumstances.  It will simply mask the neglect that is taking place in some situations and free up a bit of discretionary spending money for others who are willing to take advantage of a programme that wouldn’t actually be intended for them.

Until we change the policy settings to rid ourselves of the ‘entitlement’ culture that seems so entrenched among some, we as a country will continue to produce generations of young people who are genuinely mystified as to why they aren’t receiving even more handouts than they already are.

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