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!”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.
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.
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. I say that my world is richer for knowing them.