Boy, 6, Bagged From Contest for Bringing His Lunch to School in an Eco-Unfriendly Ziploc
A 6-year-old's plastic sandwich baggie has sparked a fierce debate over just how far schools and teachers can go to spread the green-is-good message.
The parents of a Laval, Quebec, kindergarten student are irate after their son was shut out of a contest to win a stuffed animal because he brought in an environmentally unfriendly sandwich bag in his lunch sack, Canada's National Post reports.
Marc-Andre Lanciault tells the newspaper the family was unaware of the school contest or any environmental policy until his wife, Isabel Theoret, was making their son Felix a sandwich and he begged them not to put it in a plastic bag.
"He said, 'No mommy, you can't do that. Not a Ziploc,' " Lanciault, CEO and founder of the technology company INBOX International, tells the Post.
The family typically sends his lunches packed in a Tupperware container, but it was in the dishwasher, and so they opted for a plastic baggie.
Lanciault tells the Post that when he questioned Felix's teacher, she told him, "You know, Mr. Lanciault, it's not very good for the environment. We have to take care of our planet and the bags do not decompose well."
Through tears, the newspaper reports, the boy told his parents the school had held a drawing to win a stuffed teddy bear and only children who didn't have any plastic sandwich bags could enter.
Lanciault tells the Post he objects to the fact that a school would penalize a kindergartner for his parents' choice to use non-recyclable lunch containers and that the only valuable environmental lesson his son learned from the experience was to fear plastic bags.
"If we want to teach people about the environment, I can understand that," he tells the Post. "But surely there's a better way than to penalize kids. The goal wasn't achieved, anyway. At the end of the day, my son doesn't know why he shouldn't use a Ziploc bag. It's not only the bag, it's the whole idea that we're being brainwashed from everywhere. They told us Ziploc bags are bad, so we've stopped thinking about it and just started applying the rule."
The baggie blow-up rippled across blogs in Canada and the United States after Lanciault accused the school of "propaganda" on his blog.
The Laval school board hasn't responded to repeated interview requests, the Post reports.
Experts however, say contests held to increase awareness of the environment need to be done in a positive manner.
Schools tread into dangerous territory when they start enforcing environmental messages without understanding the complex scientific arguments behind them, Jane Shaw, president of the John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy in North Carolina and co-author of "Facts, Not Fear: Teaching Children about the Environment," which was adapted for Canadian audiences, tells the Post.
Schools should focus on teaching kids the fundamentals of science so students can explore environmental issues themselves and draw their own informed conclusions as they get older, Shaw tells the newspaper.
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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.