Ethics Quiz (Gotcha Edition): Mistake, OK, or Nothing At All?

Braden's mom, Braden's stein, and Braden

Not an hour had passed since I posted my lament about small incidents being blown up into national controversies, and suddenly a perfect Ethics Quiz presented itself on the same trend, from a pre-school yet, just as in the lunch police flap. This one is a tempest in a tea cup, except instead of a tea cup the tempest is in a teeny, tiny beer stein, made out of plastic, that was given to 4-year-old Braden Bulla to represent Germany. His class was studying various countries and their culture, and the teach gave out little plastic artifacts as part of the lesson.

I’m not even sure it qualifies as a stein; it looks exactly like a creamer I’ve had forever. But it was clearly supposed to represent a stein. The children drank apple juice out of these as they learned about Bavaria.  When Braden brought the 2-3 inch plastic thing home, his mother was furious. She told the school and reporters that it is irresponsible to have students  pretend to drink alcohol, even if it is apple juice. “It is entirely inappropriate,” Bulla said. She argued with the teacher and principal, and then pulled her child out of the pre-school. Naturally, someone asked Mothers Against Drunk Driving to get into the act, and they complied, while noting that they couldn’t be authoritative without having been in the classroom. “We would say this: MADD is concerned anytime that a minor is involved in any activity that centers around alcohol consumption,” a spokesperson said. “Even in a case like this one, when there is no actual alcohol.”

So your Ethics Quiz for the day is a multiple choice question:

What best describes the Case of the 4-Year-Old’s Beer Stein?

A. Another example of irresponsible teaching. We’re training kids to be drunks! The school was irresponsible.

B. The stein was harmless. The teacher did nothing wrong, and the mother over-reacted. No wonder it’s hard finding teachers these days. Braden’s mother was unfair and unreasonable.

C. Fine, maybe the teacher made a mistake as tiny as the stein. Who cares? This isn’t worthy of a second of coverage or debate. The media should have stayed out of this.

I rule out A immediately, if all the teacher was doing was setting the mood for learning about Bavaria. Kids know the difference between fake tea and real tea, Kid know the difference between toy guns and real guns. When I played cowboy, like every kid I knew, we often pretended to be in the saloon, using water or coke as “whiskey.” Bugs Bunny has cartoons where he drinks; The Simpsons has whole plots set in Moe’s Bar. Presumably, Braden isn’t locked in his room if Mommy has a glass of wine or daddy has a beer while watching a football game. There just isn’t any harm here. If the Bullas are teetotalers and want no mention of alcoholic beverages in their child’s classes from now on—no field trips to Busch Gardens, either—they should have just pointed this out in a meeting with the teacher and the school. The school did nothing wrong.

B. If Mrs. Bulla feels strongly about it, she had every right to mention that she would prefer that such symbolic swilling be avoided in the future. No teeny wine glasses when the kids study France. I don’t know what the school’s reaction to her complaint was; if it was, “You’re nuts. Just for this, we’re studying Holland next week and instead of wooden shoes, it’s going to be teeny legal prostitutes!,” I think she was right to pull her kid out.

C. Well, I don’t know about C. Was the news story a “Look how crazy parents are today!” item? A “See how the schools are corrupting our youth?” story? I don’t necessarily blame Braden’s mother for complaining to the school, but I think she should not have made a media story out of it, and that a responsible editor with any restraint would have decided that it was not worth the time to read about, a tiny controversy about a tiny boy and his tiny stein. By today’s standards of what passes for news, however, I can’t say this was any kind of a new low.

7 thoughts on “Ethics Quiz (Gotcha Edition): Mistake, OK, or Nothing At All?

  1. Might be splitting hairs, but I think a combination of B and C. Harmless stein yes. There might be better ways to teach a lesson on Bavaria, and there are certainly other aspects of this region that lend itself to study.The mother over-reacted. However she could have been constructive with her thoughts and provided an alternative versus coming down on the school, and involving the media. And speaking of them, I expect less of them with each passing day. The pressure to be first, be different, and be provocative has caused them to lose their minds and sell their souls.

  2. In Bavaria, you can buy beer out of vending machines and a kid can walk into a store for a six pack. Similarly, French kids are brought up on cognac. That’s their culture. Little Braden is hardly likely to wind up a Sunset Blvd. wino from any of this. To him, it’s just a little cup.

    There are plenty of things out there that CAN lead a child’s mind to harmful behavior. Things that the media doesn’t seem to care about, either. Yet, they echo the mother’s demented cry over this? Both B and C, Jack. This looks like a mutual exercise in self-promotion by them all. The schools were, for once, the innocent party.

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