Is Education on the way to becoming the next Food Inc…?

teacher farmerQuestion: What do farmers and teachers have in common?

Answer: They are both outstanding in their field… but they also have a few other commonalities.

  • Both farming and teaching have been around forever.
  • Both farming and teaching are nurturing professions.
  • Both farming and teaching have historically been respected professions.
  • Both farming and teaching have a very important foundational role in society.
  • Both farming and teaching have changed immensely in the past 30 years.

And now you are asking yourself… “Where is he going with this?”

Well this post started when I was marking some end of term assignments in which the kids looked at “Super Foods” and why they are better for you than the corn syrup saturated, genetically modified Franken-Food you can find in your local grocery isle.

This past term we spent a significant amount of time looking at the modern food industry and how it has changed our food supply so significantly, that there is very little food available these days that hasn’t been touched in some way by mechanization and science.

We talk about how big multinational companies, control virtually everything that gets produced on most modern farms. I talk about how the food industry in the United States, has successfully lobbied government to put into place the Veggie Libel laws, which effectively muzzle any kind of dissent or criticism about how food is produced. We talk about how only those with enough income can afford to make healthy food choices and that in some States there are even laws put in place that prevent farmers from selling healthy organic food products, to people who want it. Finally, as if the planets had aligned on queue… Just as we were wrapping up the unit, the Horse Meat scandal hit the news and illustrated that, food producers don’t have to tell you what is really in your food.

The kids were obviously relieved to hear that things are not quite so wacky up here in Canada but I caution them that we are on a similar road as the good old US of A. The question I then put to them is, how did this happen? How did “the people” lose control of their food system?

By the end of the unit, I usually have the kids looking at the food they eat with a much more critical eye and parents asking me “what in gods name did you tell them?”…  Which brings me to how I came up with me Teacher – Farmer comparison.

Screen Shot 2013-03-04 at 7.51.32 PM

gawker.com/

Between marking sessions I was perusing my twitter feeds and saw one tweet, which led me to the headline you see to the left.

Upon reading the short article, all I could think was that I am really happy that I teach in Canada. Unfortunately , I had to remind myself that same sort of teacher bashing is happening here too. It would seem that all over North America, the teaching profession is under attack and public education is on life support.

It was then that I made the huge cognitive jump required to connect farmers and food, with teachers and school. I started listing off the following comparisons on the back of a students assignment (Thank goodness for erasers! ) and it all seemed to fit together like a shiny red apple on the teacher’s desk.

Laws are being put in place to silence teachers and their supporters, just as the Veggie Libel laws silence anyone who questions the food system.

Many jurisdictions in the USA already live with the reality that only the wealthy can afford to send their children to good quality schools, just as they are the only ones who can afford to purchase good quality food.

If public school systems are dismantled and handed over to private interests, it is conceivable that a single corporation will own the curriculum that teachers deliver, just like Monsanto owns the seed that farmers plant?

If big business is handed the keys to public schools, it is not unimaginable that they will administer them much like large stock yards or chicken houses.

The final comparison is one I came up with as I was writing this very post and it is a bit disconcerting to me but none the less carries some weight. The massive changes we experienced in our food production over the past thirty years, came on the back of technological advances. Those advances and the people who were offering them, promised a gastronomic utopia, where everyone would be fed and the world would be happy but at some point things went sideways. In many respects, these changes we are seeing coming down the pike in our education system, are fueled by a similar promise of a technological driven utopia in education.

As someone who is one of the purveyors of the technology that is being sold as education’s salvation, this is a bit problematic. I can rationalize my position by saying that I am one of the few who encourages thoughtful adoption of technology in the classroom but is that enough?

Even after my little (if not bizarre) revelation, I still feel there is a place for technology in the classroom. Technology is not the problem. The problem is allowing private interests to control that which is intended for the common good. Just like our food supply, our education system will become toxic if private interests get control of it.

Just say no to Education Inc. There is too much at steak. Tongue Out

The Smoking Apple

K-12 Database Jazzes Tech Start Ups, Spooks Parents

When private interests dictate public policy

Knowledge and Public Education in Crisis. “Accelerated Privatization of Global Education

Why Are Walmart Billionaires Bankrolling Phony School “Reform” In LA?