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No Talking During Lunch At School

Why is that some of the most egregious examples of stupidity seem to come from school administrators? Following a spate of choking incidents a school has banned talking during school lunches.

A Roman Catholic elementary school adopted new lunchroom rules this week requiring students to remain silent while eating. The move comes after three recent choking incidents in the cafeteria.

No one was hurt, but the principal of St. Rose of Lima School explained in a letter to parents that if the lunchroom is loud, staff members cannot hear a child choking.

Well, gee maybe because they are choking and can’t make a sound?

As I noted before, the number of deaths attributable to school shootings is slightly over 37. Yet neither schools nor parents are issuing/demanding bullet proof vests for their children. How many children die from choking at school during lunch? And keep in mind that eating during lunch is something that 100% of all students do (well okay maybe the anorexics don’t eat)–that is even if the number of choking deaths is higher that is somewhat to be expected given the high participation rate.

Just another example of how some people can be so mind-bogglingly bad at assessing relative risks.

Via Debunkers.

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About Steve Verdon
Steve has a B.A. in Economics from the University of California, Los Angeles and attended graduate school at The George Washington University, leaving school shortly before staring work on his dissertation when his first child was born. He works in the energy industry and prior to that worked at the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the Division of Price Index and Number Research.

Comments

  1. On the other hand, if you had to eat lunch with a bunch of typically boisterous kids every day, wouldn’t you seize upon an excuse to make them shut up? I suspect this has more to do with the lunch monitor’s digestion than it does with hearing the gasp of chokers.

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  2. Anderson says:

    This is apparently common — they did this at my son’s (Episcopalian) elementary school. Ridiculous, I thought.

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  3. Steve Verdon says:

    Being bad at assessing relative risks is probably the underlying driver. I’m waiting for something like this at my son’s school, although the principal has quite a bit of common sense, so I might have a very long wait…I hope.

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  4. Anderson says:

    I would suspect that one’s lunch companions would be the early warning of a choking student.

    Seems very unlikely that a jury is going to hold a school liable b/c they didn’t enforce silence on the students during lunch … tho lord knows, there may be a case out there …

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  5. just me says:

    This is just plain dumb.

    But then I find a lot of the zero tolerance policies and bans of tag and dodgeball pretty dumb as well.

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  6. Tlaloc says:

    You left out the other half of the equation: risk-cost.

    What is the cost of having the kids be quiet during lunch? Pretty trivial, huh? So it is an appropriate response even if it only ameliorates a low risk problem.

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  7. Dave Schuler says:

    Do we know the whole story behind this?

    I suspect that the risk they’re trying to avoid is not of a child choking but of a parent suing.

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  8. Anderson says:

    What is the cost of having the kids be quiet during lunch? Pretty trivial, huh? So it is an appropriate response even if it only ameliorates a low risk problem.

    A fine illustration of the limits of economic thought. How do we quantify the unhappiness of the kids? We can’t. So it doesn’t exist, basically.

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  9. just me says:

    A fine illustration of the limits of economic thought. How do we quantify the unhappiness of the kids? We can’t. So it doesn’t exist, basically.

    You can’t really quantify it.

    But people need to talk-we are by nature social creatures.

    Likely the cost would show up somewhere else in the educational proccess-and probably involve quite a bit of disruption during the educational time.

    Maybe what they should do instead is teach kids not to talk with food in their mouths-of course this is somewhere in the manners handbook that a lot of parents seemed to have lost somewhere along the way.

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  10. Steve Verdon says:

    A fine illustration of the limits of economic thought. How do we quantify the unhappiness of the kids? We can’t. So it doesn’t exist, basically.

    Ouch Anderson, I’m crushed. I agree with you and I’m an economist. These kinds of costs aren’t easily quantifiable, but they still exist and should at least be considered. Also, there is the socialization aspect. I know it is important for dogs, so my thinking is that it is even more important for humans (another social animal).

    Dave,

    Yeah, it is probably to avoid being sued, but again that underscores the problem of making relative risk assesments. After all, should we expect 100% safety while our children are at school? An answer of yes comes with astronomical costs, IMO (see my response to Anderson).

    just me,

    Maybe what they should do instead is teach kids not to talk with food in their mouths-of course this is somewhere in the manners handbook that a lot of parents seemed to have lost somewhere along the way.

    Now that I can agree with. I’m always on my son about this, as well as chewing with his mouth open and using his utensils in the proper way…heck using them at all on some occasions.

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  11. Tlaloc says:

    A fine illustration of the limits of economic thought. How do we quantify the unhappiness of the kids? We can’t. So it doesn’t exist, basically.

    These kids are in Catholic School. Obviously their happiness was never important to their parents in the first place.

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  12. Steve Verdon says:

    These kids are in Catholic School. Obviously their happiness was never important to their parents in the first place.

    Since I actually attended catholic school for a couple of years as a kid…touche.

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  13. Kent G. Budge says:

    These kids are in Catholic School. Obviously their happiness was never important to their parents in the first place.

    Short-term happiness, yes, possibly.

    Longer-term? The Catholic schools seem to to a pretty good job of educating, judging from the graduates I’ve known.

    Putting long-term happiness before short-term happiness is what parenting is all about, IMO.

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