August 20, 2009

I have several Canadian readers here. (Big friendly smile and I'm waving at y'all up there!) Maybe that's why this comment by Donald Jones on the article: Small Farmers See Promise In Obama's Plans caught my eye. Canada has been on my mind these last few years. In any case, this is a damn good question:

"I remember scores of Dairy farms as a child and learned through Mother Earth News, in the late 70's, that they were all being put out of business by the large Agribusiness corporations, because below a certain milk production they would no longer pick up those farmers milk. In a separate observation, I once flew a small Cessna to the annual fly in at Oshkosh. We flew over Lake Erie. Imagine my surprise when I observed the dilapidated farms of New York change to the crisp shiny red barns and picture perfect farms of Canada and wondered, why can't the small farmer make a good living in the USA. Something is really sick and wrong with our country's economic model. The chase of the dollar over the grace of living well."

...The chase of the dollar over the grace of living well... That should bang a gong in the hearts of most citizens down here. I know times are hard all over. We feel it in our household and not half of what so many others are confronting. Job loss is an awful spectre. But the idea of parents, or at least a parent, going home is not such a bad thing.

I've said that nothing has so changed my point of view like stepping outside of what our society calls school. And I also have several school teachers who read this blog. (Super big friendly smile for y'all too.) Someone recently made the point that we need teachers and homeschoolers - that one doesn't cancel the other - that education degrees have their own value. Well, I agree that good teachers are doing a necessary and fine job in a difficult situation. Our republic requires educated citizens. But, like farming, elementary education probably shouldn't be in the hands of big industry at all. Our food and our children are too important to be run by huge conglomerate corporations which, face it, absolutely chase the dollar over the grace of living well.

I don't mean to criticize teachers or big industry farmers. I mean to say, there is a more human and graceful way to think about taking care of these crucial jobs. Putting your kids in school is about as high quality as that gallon of milk from Costco. I don't mean to disparage good people making difficult choices. I mean to say that we can think about children and food in a whole new way. You can drink that milk, you can put your babies in school, your nice big house can stand empty all day while both parents work to pay the mortgage, but the babies and the milk quality suffer in not immediately visible ways we are taught not to question. And society at large pays those costs.

We could do it all differently if we could imagine doing it differently. But most parents are so frantic to get paid, get away from their children, and prove their financial worth they throw the baby out the door with a bottle of milk and set off to their industrious jobs, their children nursing the teats of industry cows and industry curricula. Its not a pretty picture. Monsanto and Archer Daniels get richer. We lose farm land. Our children are not getting smarter but do seem diminished. We fall into mortgage crisis chasing ever nicer homes which are increasingly empty. And we create more and more underpaid teaching jobs.

Even those jobs seem to be collapsing in this economy. And I guess that was my original point. A silver lining, if you will. Having a parent at home making slow food and loving the children does have broad and unexamined benefit for our society. Its not such a bad trend, after all. I'm all for women working. I would love to be getting paid right now. Still, there is a graceful and unexamined value in smaller homes with more time spent than money, localizing our food and the education of our children.


Amy said...

I love reading your thoughts. Thanks for sharing them with us! You always explain things that I am thinking so that they make sense, and leave me more to ponder at the same time.

Annie said...

"Putting your kids in school is about as high quality as that gallon of milk from Costco." I love this, Katherine but this quote below really got me:

"We could do it all differently if we could imagine doing it differently."

This got me like a punch in the stomach. I feel pretty darn sad and disheartened at the fact that many many (most?) people don't imagine much different. They're willing to settle for 'just barely good enough' and what they're told to settle for....

Thanks for this whole post!

Katherine said...

Thanks Amy. And Annie, I know. I've thought about this a lot since I posted it. It makes me sad. I'm not thinking of any one family - and almost everyone I love has made exactly these choices. But the more we homeschool the more shocked I am by the system of education that most people choose. Allllll that time and money and talent and this is the best we can do for the majority of children? It boggles the mind. I'm not even saying I've figured out how to do it right. But I think what's wrong is pretty obvious. Isn't it? My God, ISN'T IT?!