Tonight was something called “Legacy Night” at my daughter’s school. This is a middle school event (seventh and eighth grade) and one we’d apparently missed last year, probably due to softball and/or basketball conflicts. I had a vague idea that this was about all the time the class had spent on an organic farm during the school year and that my daughter had to “dress up”. As I dropped her off at school, she told me that I was supposed to pick her up after school and bring her back for the six o’clock event. I told her I’d try, but I had meetings all day up until 5 o’clock. She then told me that she’d brought her dress-up clothes and could always go to latch-key after school, but that she did want dinner.
In the end, I didn’t get out of work in time to bring her home nor to bring her dinner (although I did put a granola bar in my purse in case of emergency). When I arrived, she seemed surprised. She asked why I’d come if I couldn’t take her home for dinner. I told her I was there for the event and she told me I didn’t need to attend because it was going to be “boring”. Hmm. I was there, as were all the other parents, and I intended to stay. I am so glad that I did.
There were ten teams of four to five students who presented. They spent two days at the farm each academic cycle, totaling about five times throughout the year. Each team had a project to do and was also responsible for some non-academic aspect of their stay such as meal planning, clean-up, team-building, etc. Some of the projects were about erosion, water quality, soil quality, use of alternative energy, etc. Other teams had record-keeping responsibilities to document their work.
I was impressed with what the students had learned and how well they worked together. I did see a bias towards a pro-organic, anti-GMO viewpoint without a serious effort to document the contrary view. I did agree with most of their conclusions, but they were weaker for not having an equally strong review of the opposing viewpoint. It was good middle-school work, but definitely not high school-level research.
I was moved to tears by seeing how well the students worked together and enjoyed their time at the farm, their respect for the farm owner and farm-workers, their presentation skills, and their sincerity. My daughter may not appreciate the education she has received in this Montessori school for the last five years, but someday she will.
What really got to me, despite no citations to back up their assertions, were the descriptions of “factory farms”. Chickens that never see the light of day and are injected with hormones to cut the time to grow in half and effectively make them incapable of walking. Piglets taken from their mothers at four weeks so that the mothers can be impregnated again. Cattle whose tails are cut off without anesthesia so that their stalls can be just that much smaller. They had many stories and none of them were pretty. I started feeling sick about the meats I eat and wondered if I should just become a vegetarian. In the end, I did decide to be more conscious of my eating. I prefer Amish chicken, and I am sure I’ll be buying it at the grocery instead of the cheaper, now-suspect chicken. I don’t eat much beef, so that is less of an issue, and they didn’t talk about fish, so I’m focusing on my chicken consumption for the time being.
Mindfulness and education are important to me. I have no problem with eating meat, but I do have a problem with systematic cruelty towards food animals. We are long past the days of The Jungle…or are we? Something to think about.
Find the Joy in the Journey…even when it’s time to question your path!