Do you know the difference between “cage free”, “free range” and “pasture raised”? Its an important game of words. Please read on, even though this entry has some loose ends and needs more attention than I can give it right now. But I want to get this going out there…
A recent episode of Cosmos (click here to watch it) had a singular example of what I believe is our uncanny penchant to exterminate ourselves for profit. Clair Patterson’s struggle to educate us about how we were poisoning ourselves reminded me of the current struggles with our food sources that our society is having.
Our first field trip this year was to one of my student’s grandparents’ farm, the largest organic farm in New Mexico, East Mountain Organics. The political and marketing issues that local and organic farms are facing present real problems for us, our society, and the generations to come. Tomas at EMO, and I talked about trying to set up some kind of program for the students, which I have not followed through on, but hope to with this as a reminder.
Some of the struggles we are facing in the food supply are being named by the “lexicon of sustainability” project, which is also showing a series of short movies on PBS, which is linked here. This is an incredibly excellent resource to begin to educate yourself on some of these issues, like the introductory question.
We experiment around the precipice of extermination quite a lot, and if the food chain issues are so subtle to us that we don’t notice the huge issues that are “cropping up”, then it is easy to understand why the issues in education are lost on many people. Everybody eats, but many voters aren’t connected to public education except through sound bites. So if the food issues remain esoteric to many people, think how disconnected from understand the education issues people are.
But here’s the thing. They will be. Because just like with the food issues, unsustainable practices evolve into a crisis, and so will the unsustainable education practices. We have seen evidence of that crisis in the closure of public schools. Who would really think its a good idea to close down a building that tax-payers have spent millions of dollars on, to crowd more students into other schools? But once they are at that point, the school systems are so miserable that the general public has bought into the idea- in fact, want to do away with the whole of public education because of the ruins they’ve become. Of course, then the absolute foundation of our country crumbles. As Thomas Jefferson said: “Educate and inform the whole mass of the people . . . They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty.”
So, why do we have this penchant to exterminate ourselves, our core values? I hope we can make some realizations before the closures begin here in New Mexico. For me, as a teacher, and I think for many others, we aren’t so concerned about ourselves individually as we are about us altogether. The passion for the democracy, the division of the power that is knowledge- this is the fight we believe we are in, and its crazy that our politicians are leading the charge against it.