The Edible Schoolyard – Why College Should Not Be The Goal

Posted on June 30, 2009

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Alice Waters. The Edible Schoolyard: A Universal Idea. Chronicle Books, 2008.

http://www.edibleschoolyard.org/

edible schoolyard

The Edible Schoolyard (ESY), a program of the Chez Panisse Foundation, is a one-acre organic garden and kitchen classroom for urban public school students at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School in Berkeley, California. At ESY, students participate in all aspects of growing, harvesting, and preparing nutritious, seasonal produce.
Classroom teachers and Edible Schoolyard educators integrate food systems concepts into the core curriculum. Students’ hands-on experience in the kitchen and garden fosters a deeper appreciation of how the natural world sustains us and promotes the environmental and social well being of our school community. View video >

Searching the internet yielded another Edible Schoolyard in New Orleans, LA.

— VIA —

I’ve been thinking a lot about education lately, and I was struck with the “mission” and “goals” of some of the other projects that I’ve posted on this blog. Primarily, their objectives are academic advancement, at least at first glance, and at face value of their rhetoric. This has left me unsatisfied. Pursuing college, attaining the basic skills of literacy, history, mathematics, etc., is clearly important, and I have no depreciation of these subjects being taught. Yet, (and this is often risky to say), why is “going to college,” the ultimate goal that we instill in these kids at such an early age? I recently saw a video clip of some graduated seniors from a local academy, one that is famous for 90% of their graduates (from an impoverished demographic) being accepted at well-known accredited colleges. The kids were loudly, and with great jubilation, chanting the mantra, “I’m going to college!”

I ask the irritating question, “Why?”

Why is college so important? And, why is “college” the captivating value ultimately for education? Don’t get me wrong. I went to college, and am still going in fact. However, I’m sure any college graduate will tell you that there is a disproportionate cost/benefit balance when it comes to true education, and more importantly, true life skills. In addition, given the moral and ethical failures that we are seeing in abundance, perhaps there should be other disciplines and ideas given, taught, and “educated” into our kids as they head for higher education.

In contradistinction to other education projects, The Edible Schoolyard stood out, to me, as a “life approach” towards the subject, not simply an academic one. From what I’ve read and seen, their goals were not simply that they attain to the highest levels of agricultural education, but rather, they’ll teach things like, “Good food ought to be a right and not a privilege,” and “No work, no benefits.” This quote from the New Orleans site caught my attention:

Our goal is to transform a typical commercialized cafeteria into a dining experience that models sustainable patterns of living and encourages students to use their senses and to enjoy meaningful social interactions with staff and other students.

That would be an example of a higher level of education that rises above “higher education.”

So, my muse is quite simple. Definitely encourage and push kids towards college, towards higher levels of education. But most of all, push them to understand why. And, give them the intrinsic guiding principles, the moral center, the fundamental human values that embrace and contextualize their education for something so much greater than the education which they are receiving.

Our goal is to transform a typical commercialized cafeteria into a dining experience that models sustainable patterns of living and encourages students to use their senses and to enjoy meaningful social interactions with staff and other students.
Posted in: Education