Helen Martin: Food banks are a crucial lesson

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A new form of political correctness seems to have taken over the school rooms of Scotland, with an outcry over a Glasgow teacher who took a class of ten-year-olds on an anti-austerity march raising awareness of food poverty and food banks.

The problem appears to be that a teacher is not allowed to identify food poverty, food banks, inequality, and austerity as “bad”.

St George’s RC Primary School, in the not terribly affluent area of Penilee which was built over the 30s and 40s to house armaments workers in Hillington, has also been criticised for inviting three Labour politicians (including Jim Murphy), one SNP, and Tommy Sheridan to address the children.

Parents of children at the school were quite happy, although other people apparently complained to Glasgow City Council that the pupils were being politically indoctrinated. The council have now insisted that if politicians are to be invited to speak to children that must include all parties, including Tory and Lib Dem.

Finding a Tory in Penilee would be as easy as finding a Whig. Considering there is only one Tory MP in Scotland, I think the school can be forgiven for regarding such an invitation as about as relevant and necessary as asking a US Republican or a Morris dancer.

But what can we deduce when people think a march against austerity, inequality and food poverty is a political statement and a vote for Socialism or Nationalism? Does that mean Tories and Lib Dems are in favour of poverty and starvation? Of course not.

It is not up to schools and teachers to represent every view to children, only those any reasonable person would regard as correct or acceptable. We warn them about sexual predators but we don’t invite psychologists in to explain why paedophiles do what they do. We might discuss global death penalties in lessons but we don’t invite state executioners in to explain the job and share their views. If we teach them stealing is wrong we don’t have to ask a thief to come and present the counter argument.

No-one wants austerity. Any country which allows families, including working families, to go hungry when it can afford to feed them, yet condones multi-million pound salaries for others, is clearly dysfunctional. It’s a simple matter of right and wrong. Kids get that.

It may be a debatable political point in the halls of Westminster, among economists who have one eye on the FTSE and another on GDP, or in Whitehall where Defence, Foreign Affairs, Transport and Health department mandarins squabble over what they see as higher priorities. But there is no way even the most compassionate and caring Tory MP could explain the intricacies of that argument to a class of ten-year-olds.

Any responsible teacher or parent would prefer that children who knew about food banks thought there was something we could do about them, rather than be told there was no alternative and it was necessary their friend Jimmy went without dinner every night so that Britain could reduce the deficit, otherwise more and more people would go hungry . . . which is a rough, simplistic but not totally inaccurate interpretation of the austerity policy. And that really would scare the pants off them.

Yet another net loss to add to all the others

ABUSE of teachers is on the rise, with a third now claiming they have been bullied by parents. Now there’s something you wouldn’t have read 30 years ago. It is of course another online story, evidence of how pathetically controlled and de-railed adults, as well as children, have become by anti-social networking.

The teachers should have more sense than to go on Twitter and Facebook leaving themselves vulnerable to attack. The parents, judging by their insulting posts, probably never went to school in the first place, and if so, they didn’t learn much.

For the most important lesson, turn to China which now has 300 clinics treating internet addiction. According to one of their specialists Tao Ran, the effect on the brain is similar, though more damaging, than heroin consumption, and complicated by clinical depression and eating disorders. Similar clinics and therapy camps are being set up in Japan and Taiwan.

Only now are the downsides of the internet revolution beginning to reveal themselves. Watch this space – or that screen.

Researchers make a meal of takeaways ban

CAMBRIDGE University research suggests local authorities should consider restricting the number of takeaways in poor areas to cut obesity. Posh tosh!

Poor people aren’t daft. Give them the means (free cookery lessons) and they can and will buy twice as many healthy meals for half the money.

The whites and wrongs of milk

WE have much for which to thank the EU. But the decision to scrap milk production limits and open the floodgates to imports from Ireland, Holland and Germany is madness and will have catastrophic consequences.

British farmers can’t afford to produce milk at £1 for half a gallon as it is, and that’s without a profit.

The industrialisation of milk supplies already means cows never see a field, newborn males of dairy cows are slaughtered at birth, automated milking parlours lead to cows suffering from chronic and painful mastitis with us relying on pasteurisation to “clean up” the resulting milk. It has become one of the cruellest and cheapest foods on the planet. We pay more for free-range eggs. I’d happily pay more for ethical milk.