Thursday, July 06, 2006


But hey wait! That shafts vegetarians!

And it is no accident that in Wellington beats the heart of political correctness in New Zealand. Its inner suburbs are white, middle-class, university educated and their income and status protects them from daily experience of society's detritus or riff-raff. Unlike, say, the provinces. But it had not been possible -until now - to identify the epicentre, the ground zero of PC-dom in Wellington. Until last week.

That's when Wadestown Primary School banned peanut butter sandwiches from its precincts because someone, somewhere, sometime might just have a nut allergy. And - omigod -die. For the same reason, they've also banned Nutella sandwiches, hazel nuts, cashew nuts, muesli bars and anything that has ever been near a nut product in a dairy, supermarket or mum's pantry. In other words: No nuts.

Now this may be simply due to the fact that there are already too many on their board of trustees and in the staff room. Probably. When questioned as to why the favourite spreads of Kiwi kids should be exorcised, Wadestown school explained that a child had died from anaphylactic shock after exposure to a peanut.

Really? Where? Australia. How old was this child? Fourteen. And the circumstances? A teenage boy -at secondary school - who had a severe nut allergy was challenged to eat one by a few of his mates. He was stupid enough to do so - the culinary equivalent of crunching into a cyanide pill.

On that basis, Wadestown Primary School enforced its ban. Incredibly, the parents have accepted such ridiculousness. Despite there being no recorded death, in more than 25 years, of a child dying in New Zealand of anaphylactic shock from a peanut allergy. Even the main allergy lobby group in this country is opposed to the ban.

Yes, but what happens to those children who accept and venerate the nut as part of their culture? Say, vegetarians? Having enforced the ban, the Wadestown staff and trustees could not be seen to be backing down. On the other hand -and despite good medical evidence - vegetarians are people too. And oppressed people - primarily due to not shaving their legs, eschewing deodorants and bathing in their own urine.

But like the good teachers' college graduates that they are, Wadestown found a solution. They would isolate the nut-crunchers to a "safe" area of the school. The peanut purveyors would receive a form of supervised community care. Although the aim would still be to wean them from their insensitivity and immaturity.


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