Saturday, April 4, 2015

All economies start with a seed

In the U.S., we are still just talking about the steps many leading countries are actually taking to prepare their students for a competitive global economy. Falling behind educationally now will hurt our country economically for generations.

The global economy, or the abstraction we call the global economy, is doing  immeasurable harm to countless beings, including humans. I do not care to prepare students for this. I am a public school teacher working in a public space to help students learn how to see, how to think.

Claim. Evidence. Reasoning.

The word "economy" comes from Greek roots that mean, literally, to manage one's household. "Global economy" is an oxymoron.
A classroom carrot--long since eaten, from breath back to breath.

Next week many of my students will plant the seeds to grow the plants that will bear food, using little more than calories from the sun, a patch of earth along the south side of our high school, the breath of  living organisms that live in and around our neighborhood, and rain from the sky.

This is about as simple and local an economy as one can hope, and even this is beyond true comprehension. A teaspoon of decent soil holds a universe of mystery. Still, it's a start.
Classroom basil, also long since eaten, from breath back to breath
A seed will sprout for anyone, rain is still free, and our sun's energy fuels us all--the Big Mac could not exist without all three. The fourth piece, carbon dioxide, the "waste" we breathe out, is as much a part of this as the rest--what we waste becomes what we build. Life is a cycle.

A true economy has little waste.

When somebody else plants the seeds for you, lifts the shovel for you, poisons himself for you, picks the harvest for you, slaughters the harvest for you, trucks the harvest for you, and you've lost the connection to the seed, you've lost your connection to life and to the living.

Local economies matter--Hurricane Katrina is an economic story
What makes life potentially infinite is not limitless resources, but cycles. Every piece of everything that enters your body eventually leaves it, in one form or another, and eventually gets used again, in one form or another.

The global economy is based on a race to extract as much from this land and from most peoples as fast as possible in order to, um, well, the why is not so clear.

Education matters, of course, but not for the reasons Mr. Duncan purports. A global economy, such as it is, depends on us wresting a child from her roots. A decent education, a decent democracy, a decent life depends on those very same roots.

You can "earn" a college degree without a basic understanding of how life depends on cycles; just pretend the abstract is real, accept the lies of your culture, and collect your money. Ignorance is bliss.

Harvested by hand, by me, for little more than the cost of my time.
Me? I'll continue to show kids what they're missing, continue to teach them how to see (and to trust what they see), continue to assure them (even as I have doubts myself) that a better world is possible. I also remind them that each and every one of us will die, as all living things must.

Most will still be fit for the global economy despite my efforts--our culture immerses kids in an abstract world early on, feeds them the mythologies that feed the economy.

Pursuit of happiness matters more to a democracy than pursuit of desires.


Jenny said...

This isn't hugely relevant, but I'll share anyway. My daughters and I spent time at the Newseum this week during our spring break and saw that photograph from Katrina. (There is an amazing exhibit of Pulitzer Prize winning photographs.) My oldest has talked about that specific photo multiple times in the four or five days since she saw it. I am amazed at the power of a photograph.

doyle said...

Dear Jenny,

I need to credit that photo--and your story is hugely relevant. It's our stories that remind us what matters, tell us who we are, and make the cycle of life bearable on the decay side.