When technology meets red tape: the school dinner blogger
Update: the ban on Martha Payne's blog has now been overturned. Smart move!
If parents were not already worried about what went into their children's school meals, the decision by Argyll and Bute Council to ban a nine-year-old from blogging about her food should give them cause for concern. Why, one has to ask, would such a harmless and enterprising idea from a child be viewed as a danger? Has this meddling young blogger come a little bit too close to the truth for comfort?
Schoolgirl Martha Payne's Never Seconds blog, which took the hugely popular art of food photography into the school dining room, raised heckles at the Council after it was picked up by a local newspaper that had homed in the blog's focus on nutritional content. Staff at Lochgilphead Primary School allegedly 'feared for their jobs' after the headline 'Time to fire dinner ladies' was used.
It's fair to say that the blog posts written by Martha (or 'VEG' as she signs off each post) left no stone overturned in her quest for a better lunch. Alongside the more predictable health rating, price and number of courses, she details how many 'pieces of hair' win up on her plate, as well as the number of mouthfulls it takes her to finish the meal. One can only imagine how this brave investigative endevour goes down with her classmates...
But despite the obvious effort and inquisitive spirit put into each post, the powers that be have blundered in to shut it all down. To us, this decision smacks of stupidity for all kinds of reasons but the main one is a total lack of appreciation of the power of Social Media.
Whoever made the decision to shut down the site in an attempt to silence Martha Payne gives every impression of ignorance about how far a story published in a blog that has already had over two million views can travel. One has to wonder if they'd even heard of Twitter, where the story of the ban was made public.
This lack of understanding is unfortunately still rife in many UK institutions, and the Never Seconds story should be a warning to anyone who underestimates what blogs and social networks can do.
It's not difficult to see how this story developed: as long as there have been children with clever ideas that did not sit rigidly inside the set ideas of how kids should learn and behave, there have been institutions trying to silence them. Today's development shows only too clearly that nothing on this score has changed.
Happily, the reaction to Martha Payne's story has been one of overwhelming public support, so we're sure she'll be able to continue her passion for blogging once the debacle boils over. It's genuinely heartening to see such an interesting and well-presented idea from such a young blogger, and the pictures and accompanying facts on Never Seconds really do make for great reading. This is one young lady who's sure to go far!