Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Your plow is a pencil and you're 1000 miles from the corn...

Shucks. Virginia shows that 'farming' can also include aquaculture.It would never have occurred to me that a reader of this Journal may not know anything about a farm. Although the "farm" that I inhabit is long-defunct -- the cows having long ago retired to nestling under condiments -- there were the neighbor's sheep bleating pastorality onto the scene when I first arrived.
That's why it was gratifying to read the NYTimes tale of the Harlem Success Academy, to see that the idea of an expanded worldview -- not a limited one -- leads to achievement.

On the bus ride to the farm, the children sang rounds of “Old MacDonald Had a Farm” and a boy yelled, “I love pumpkin pie!”
But it soon became clear that this was a field “study”— as the teachers called it — not a field “trip,” and the 75 Harlem kindergartners were going not only for a glimpse of rural life, but to rack up extra points on standardized tests.
“I want to get smarter,” 5-year-old Brandon Neal said.
I suppose that "standardized" tests are not really "standard -- even with scores improved by these field studies. After all, there is no practical use for an urban dweller to know about hogs, or a rural resident familiarize herself with subways. Fair enough. But the smaller that one's environment becomes, smaller too dwindles their consciousness. Even when I was sailing with "at-risk urban youth," their communication skills widened just as their eyes did at wonders like ever-changing waves and never-changing stars. Gazing at city lights from the roof of a tenement and standing on a deck gazing at stars you have never seen because they're obscured by those city lights. Both experiences humble without the humiliation.

I'm sure that Frederick's of Omaha has the very same outfit.

Granted, the caricatures of "city kid" and "country kid" seem archaic when this very device allows a resident of New York City to effectively correspond about Dancing With The Stars with a resident of Almena, Kansas (population 469). Not long ago, the urban-versus-rural class war seemed unwinnable and unresolvable. But now, those easy representations of "city slicker" and "country rube" are embarrassing and perplexing caricatures. Does Hee-Haw even make any sense anymore? It doesn't take a knowledge of corn production and refinery to recognize laughter.
And, without knowing subways and squirrels, I probably wouldn't appreciate the tractors and coyotes around here. The important skills that one never loses.I say that my world is richer for knowing them.

(This presentation features photographs of Virginia Mayo.)

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