Let's Prehend
A Manual of Human Ecology and Culture Design

GARDENS, Quick and Easy Cultural Shift

Pathways to New Cultures

Walking in the neighborhood, I noticed a large empty field of grass. With the coming economic collapse, surely such underutilized resources could be put to good use. The current careful tending of this huge lawn - sodding, fertilizing and watering - is more than enough for a lush and lovely garden.

On closer examination I inferred that this was the high school athletic field. What a marvelous opportunity our economic crisis offers. Converting this waste into a productive garden could help alleviate the looming economic crisis with produce for the staff, students and neighborhood. Already there is talk of cutting back on the school lunch programs. The energy, facilities, organization and staff could easily develop a gardening program for the benefit of all. The GARDEN program is yet another opportunity provided by the current crisis. ["Greening the Ghetto" E. Kolbert]

Gardening, and the preparation of food so valued by youngsters, offers an infinite range of educational experiences. Granted the present well educated staff is ill equipped for such a venture, but they can expect plenty of experienced support and guidance from the Hispanics that linger near the building supply stores. Imagine the enrichment offered by this under utilized resource, not just experience, but language versatility, cooperative group skills, and sharing the joys of productive and creative work.

Let's hope the looming economic crisis is severe enough to provide such an opportunity. Youngsters need to be needed, they need meaningful activities that produce, create and serve. They need personal and group projects that focus the mind, train the body and foster complex social skills. A casual look at the kids on the street suggests that most are aimless and depressed, looking for personal and social status in a commercial dominated environment, suffering a mix of social alienation and peer oppression. Maladjustment to a pathological peer culture can offer some a chance to enrich themselves and perhaps their society. The Garden program can offer what they need. They deserve it and we owe it to them.

Consider the `curriculum' aspects of the garden program. The best learning is by emulating productive and creative role models. The Internet offers limitless information and the students are already experienced with computers.

Food preparation, formerly home economics, explores more than the intricacies of diet and food preparation. The wholesome labor offers increasing health from complex physical exercise. Managing the garden enhances planning and cooperation skills. The mysteries of plants increases insight into biology and its foundations in chemistry and physics. Preparing food opens the doors to the rich and varied cultures that bless our neighborhood and our world. Broadening the biota to include fauna not only extends and enhances the education but provides furry fuzzies for the tots to tend. From different cultures and languages the youngsters may even preserve and expand their phonemic versatility.

Looking out my window I noticed my neighbor on his exercycle while the Hispanic gardeners applied their knowledge, experience and expertise tending his ghostly yard and garden. My unfortunate neighbor finds himself in this abstract behavior, separating physical from intellectual exercise, typical of the Compulsion of the Abstract Life, CAL, that so dominates current culture. The essence Modern Abstract Culture, MAC, is the separation of physical, mental and emotional in personal life, and the specialization and commercialization of social and cultural life. [J. Mander] The garden program remedies this cultural disease. He might like to make a wholesome transition, but he dare not give himself permission or risk his class image self concept. Perhaps his education has made him this passive conformer to degenerate values. Let's hope his children and grandchildren can rise above the mire of abstract culture.

Granted, the gardening program will displace other aspects of the High School curriculum. Sports, that mindless conformity to simple rules that develop skills that are neither productive nor creative, that develop group cohesion based on meaningless competitions, that displace personal expression and trivialize group loyalty. Group participation and loyalty are deep in our nature since before we were homonotsosapiens. But our social fabric is so torn that this deep need to belong leaves the youngsters victimized by age grouping peer tyranny. Gardening mixes the ages and promotes complex tasks and grouping that mixes ages and promotes maturity. Notice the wholesome shift from explicit to implicit rewards, toward a more enriching and harmonious life.

Fortunately, the high school already has labs and shops to analyze soil, develop and maintain appropriate tools, and generally support this hands-on program. Teams may meet in classrooms, not for `curriculum', but for task-oriented mixed age planning.

The teachers have exciting opportunities to become "organizers of learning", as they learned in their teacher training programs. The garden program broadly includes the survey of world food, the geography of hunger, the meaning of eating together, the breadth and depth of exploration of human culture.

As for the three Rs, they are no longer explicit, but increasingly implicit in the complex `task' and `project' orientation. Age grouping in classrooms to learn the Rs may have been necessary and appropriate when Martin Luther first promoted it, but it no longer needed or useful. Worse yet, it carries serious psychological, social and cultural pathologies. Nicolas Negroponte's "$100 Laptop" program provides a computer for each child, a window to google and world culture, and saves the expense of common text books. [Chapter 9: EDUCATION]

As the economy collapses, gardening programs increase personal, social and cultural health. Crisis = opportunity.

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