Sunday, December 11, 2005

Communities of practice: learning about lice & taboos

Friday I helped with the X-mas decorations in school. One of the mothers talked to me about her wish to know who is having lice (louse-lice?) in the class of her children. Lice is a huge problem in all Dutch schools. Since my daughters are schooling, after each holiday there is an inspection. With the exception of one holiday, on all occassions, we received a letter announcing there is lice in class, please check your children with some short explanation about treatment. Apart from that there is no talking about the topic, out of fear of stigmatization of children. My daughters had it once and even though I checked I saw nothing, you really need experience to recognise it. I have learned a lot about the practice of combatting lice from practice, chemicals don't really work and give the illusion it's been treated. So when I shared my lessons, the mother was surprised. We also discussed whether you would allow a child with lice to play with your children. The ideas were wide apart! Even though there is a lot of informal sharing and collective learning around eating habits etc. in the community of school parents, collective learning on lice is limited. Lesson: opportunities for informal contacts (X-mas decoratings) may help get some conversations on difficult but important topics going. (more difficult in virtual communities?)

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