The National Children's Bureau has issued guidance to play group leaders and nursery teachers advising them to be alert for racist incidents among youngsters in their care, the Telegraph reports today.
The 366 page guide warns that such 'racist' activity might include a dislike of chicken curry, a toddler’s wariness of a non-white care assistant or ill considered name calling in the playground.
Which raises some intriguing questions; if a child rejects Sheppard’s pie or rice pudding are they committing a racist act against traditional rural Britain? If a child cries when a man picks it up but not when a woman does so, is the child sexist? And is the child who uses a popular TV catch phrase - which is considered offensive by some - a genuine racist?
Racism is a serious issue and reducing it is a proper objective. But such a report not only misunderstands the problem, it also undermines it. Targeting pre-school children smacks of the worst government interventionism and social engineering possible, and it is ridiculous to suggest that disliking foreign food constitutes an incipient racism, turning what is a serious issue into a farce.
And it is a farce which taxpayers are funding. The Bureau is one of the increasing number of 'government sponsored’ charities around today. Of its £13.3 million income, £5.7 million comes directly from government departments and another £4 million from other quangos and government subsidiaries.
Perhaps most interesting in all this is the Bureau's insistence that such 'racist incident's' should be dealt with firmly, and reported to local councils. This would mean extending the criminalization of children to the under fours. Children might even be force-fed paella in efforts to stamp out the seeds of xenophobia.
In fact what's more likely is that nurseries, fearful of being labeled racist, will err on the side of caution. Chips it is then. Introducing children to new cultures and peoples is an important part of pre-school; labelling children's irrational likes and dislikes as racist only works to undermine that.