I was teaching my students PIE, the Principle of Inclusion and Exclusion. This was the last lesson of 2010 and it seemed natural to have a party and bring some pie. It appears that the school has a new rule. If I want to bring any food to class, I need to submit a request that includes all food ingredients. The administrators send it to the parents asking them to sign a permission slip and then, if I receive all the slips back in time, I can bring pie to school. We had to study PIE without pie.

Our most important task as parents and teachers is to teach kids to make their own decisions. They are in high school; they know by now about their own allergies and diets; they should be able to avoid foods that might do them harm. I understand why schools create such rules, but we are treating the students like small children. We can’t protect them forever; they need to learn to protect themselves.

Next semester, we will study the mathematics of fair division. I will have to teach them how to cut a cake without a cake.



  1. Jonathan:

    I taught some fair division before Thanksgiving, in theory. Honestly, a bunch of bright seniors had their minds blown by going through an exercise, and ending up with more than their fair share, and then looking around the tables and seeing that everyone was in the same situation.

    But the day before vacation we put theory into practice. They were less impressed, but perhaps more engaged. We played what I have heard called “last reducer.” No pie, no cake, but enough other “things” to generate lots of focus.

  2. Philip Petrov:

    I think that this is a very bad illness of the western culture – the efforts of the government “to regulate everything without involving directly”. In that case the most simple and obvious solution is that when the parents bring their kids to school they can say to the teachers “my kid is allergic to pie”… and that’s it – the teacher will watch out for that kid on the “pie lesson”.

    But no – your government do not trust that the parents are thinking humans. They can forget to say that to the school, right?

    And no – your government do not trust that the teachers are thinking humans. They can forget to read the students dossier before starting the “pie lesson”.

    So what happens? Nobody, but the government is a thinking substance. Everything else is presumed as “not thinking substance” and it must follow strict, pretty much non-sense, rules. The result is over-regulation, which is designed that the regulator is never responsible for anything.

  3. Felipe Pait:

    In classes of small children if one has an allergy the school informs all parents early in the year and bans the trouble ingredient. It is excessive, most allergies exist only in the minds of the parents and the pockets of the HMOs, but certainly less bureaucratically oppressive than the scheme you mention.

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