Saturday, July 2, 2016

Staying grounded

Patch of backyard, moments ago

What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow
Out of this stony rubbish? Son of man,  
You cannot say, or guess, for you know only
A heap of broken images, where the sun beats,
And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief,
And the dry stone no sound of water. Only
There is shadow under this red rock,  
(Come in under the shadow of this red rock),
And I will show you something different from either
Your shadow at morning striding behind you
Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;

I will show you fear in a handful of dust.
T.S. Eliot, from The Waste Land

In the end, of course, it all falls apart, reason enough to take care of each other.

The sun is just starting its journey back to the shadows, and you can smell, again, wafts of the dead and the dying among the exuberance left over from June. By fall, the air smells like rich earth again.

The ground beneath us holds a universe of stories, of critters both unimaginably complex and foreign, spinning life-stuff from the air, nitrogen to ammonia to nitrates. The story of us starts with the dust on our soles, the dust of our souls.

(We are not defined by DNA anymore than a house is defined by its blueprint--protein is what makes me me, and you you. )

Science as taught today no longer grounds us--high school science is an amalgam of abstractions, magic formulas that, if mastered well, help gain entrance to institutions that increase your odds of making a livable wage.

The Gospel of the NGSS tells us so:
"Beyond the needs of the economy, an education grounded in acquiring and applying knowledge positions students to improve their options in a rapidly changing menu of jobs, where few students will stay in the same job throughout their working lives."
My classroom extends out to our school garden, our town's Green, physical extensions of the more important extensions to the earth and life, to the dust and death. In English classes, these themes are metaphorical.

In biology, when done right, a child should have moments of, well, terror, as she realizes that this human world of images and screens and light is as empty as the promises made by the false prophets around us.

Our children need to be grounded, in the literal sense. They need mud between their toes, they need to grow flowers from seed, they need to wile away afternoons staring at the life in a square foot patch of grass, or they will be lost, as so many of the adults around them already are.

Bee by the driveway, a year or two ago.

Science starts with what's real, and nothing less.
So do a few other things that should matter.

Education should start with a clue about what matters.


GratefulMystic said...


Jenny said...

My oldest is in middle school. Science is her least favorite subject (although she had a delightful teacher and worked her tush off). She can rattle off things that make no sense to me as I've long sense forgotten them from my schooling. In groups they did have aquariums with various plants and animals that they planned and cared for. Other than that, I think most of what she did last year was theoretical. You've reminded me that we need to spend a lot more time together digging in the dirt, looking around ourselves, asking questions, and just talking about what we see, wonder, and think we know.

doyle said...

Dear Jenny,

Sorry for the late response, somehow I missed this, but you captured the essence of science--
"You've reminded me that we need to spend a lot more time together digging in the dirt, looking around ourselves, asking questions, and just talking about what we see, wonder, and think we know."

I'm drifting further and further away from the theoretical (partly because I am getting more freshmen and fewer seniors, partly because of NGSS, maybe mostly because I am getting older and time is getting short.

You're kids are very, very lucky to have you.