Friday, November 19, 2010

Thinking About Eat-ucation

Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he will eat for his entire life.
~Chinese Proverb
As a teacher, these words always hold a great and deep truth for me, but as an eater, I have always thought they missed one really important point: did anyone teach the man to cook the fish? The art of cooking is one people often think of when they say they want to "learn how to cook," but what of the skill of cooking? Where does one learn that?

I have often written of my own experiences with learning to cook from my family, but I am often intrigued by an even grander plan. On reading a fellow blogger's position on her blog Cooking in Stilettos, I was called back to my cause: cooking in the classroom! This is something that simply must, in my opinion, begin to take shape in our schools in a very real way.

My husband knows that when my brother and I get on the phone that I could be trapped for hours rapt in conversation. Many times we will wax philosophical on what should be taught in the schools. My brother, a former Marine (err.. um... apologies: once a Marine, ALWAYS a Marine! But I think you know what I am getting at here),  didn't hit his true learning stride until he got to the Marines - until his learning meant something to him, until he knew he would need it. He often says, "I wish school was more like that. Not that we shouldn't learn all that other stuff, but what about the stuff we can use right away and know we can use forever." I, the education expert in the family, have no argument. So, without much delay we hypothetically create our new school system where active learning  is central and I explain to my brother that "all that other stuff" can actually be taught through that. We dream big...

And yet, with feet planted solidly on the ground, I ask you Why not? 

If you watched Jaime Oliver's Food Revolution this last Spring, then you saw, with me, one way it could be done. In another blog, Life With A Possum, it is noted that Gorden Ramsey, too, has spoken up about the great importance of hands-on food learning. We can look to the state Connecticut for yet another. In episode 10: "You Are What You Eat" of My Life in Food on the Cooking Channel, the New Haven Public Schools showed their commitment to food education in their involvement in the Farm to Schools program.

The Farm to Schools program seems like a really good one because it gives students a thorough exposure to food from seed to plate and has far-reaching benefits. However, it is not the only organization and/or method for going about this. Slow Food USA did an amazing job of giving a brief overview of over 20 different programs going on all over the United States to yield these same results: students getting what I like to call a good eat-ucation!

The fact of the matter is, no matter where you go as of late, people are talking about education. The documentary Waiting for Superman has shone a light on the state of our current system and many, many people are saying they don't like what they see. I couldn't agree more. In March of 2008, Bill Gates addressed the Congress concerning education and immigration, here is an excerpt from his talk:

"As a nation, our goal should be to ensure that ultimately every job seeker, every displaced worker, and every individual in the U.S. workforce has access to the education and training they need to succeed in the knowledge economy," Gates said. "This means embracing the concept of 'lifelong learning' as part of the normal career path of American workers, so everyone in the workforce can use new technologies and meet new challenges." (quote copied from Information Week)
I know Bill Gates was not necessarily speaking about implementing cooking into the educational system when he spoke, but I simply can not think of a subject more attuned to lifelong learning than that. In a curriculum of cooking, students would be engaged in critical thinking, application of knowledge from a number of their "basic" subjects (as a math teacher I am all a-flutter with the idea of students' true comprehension of fractions given a realistic context!!) and will have to learn to think both flexibly and realistically. The potential for true, deep learning that would extend to other subject matters is one I relish in. 

There are so many reasons this makes sense, but, for some reason, there are still thousands of schools that have yet to embrace it - our nation has yet to embrace it. And so, once more, with feet planted solidly on the ground, I ask you Why not? 

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