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  • December 2015

  • Education and Agriculture

    “Do you know what was being taught in my child’s class today?” When hearing that question I was confident that I may not want to but needed to know; especially due to the sense of urgency and tone of frustration the caller had. His child’s middle school reading assignment covered a short segment titled “Be Kind To Cows!” While the title isn’t anything I would disagree with, the content and more importantly the justification for the curriculum sure was.

    The Word Up Project, Level Indigo section told the student that “most cattle today are raised on big farms and ranches that likes to raise the cattle in a way that takes up the least amount of time and money.” Nothing new with that statement, businesses have been driven to that model in order to stay competitive. But the article goes on that “cows are being fed inexpensive corn and since cattle eat grass in the wild some consider a corn based ration a type of animal abuse. Life would be better for cows if we treat them with compassion”.

    At this point I fully understood the frustration of this parent of a child that attends a very rural school. We discussed several ways to react and that talking to the teacher and volunteering to come to the class and discuss how cattle are treated on his farm and how the ruminant digestive system works would be the proper course of action. Sounded like a teachable moment but the reply from the school was not in the manner that was expected. While outside speakers are encouraged, topics need to meet the standards of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) and a lesson plan would need to be submitted and approved. Quite evident that roadblocks can be put into place in order to keep the slant of curriculum one sided.

    If this type of agenda is happening in a public school in rural Iowa, what is being taught elsewhere? Presenting the other side of the issue could very easily incorporate science (ruminant digestive system and corn is a grass) technology (artificial insemination), engineering (modern building design) and math (ration formulation, profit and loss). Not arguing that those criteria should be met in today’s curriculum but I question if the lesson on being kind to cows met or exceeded those same standards. It does make a person wonder if there is another agenda being pursued by some responsible for the education of our youth.

    Having agriculture taught in the classrooms across Iowa is a goal of the county Farm Bureau’s all across Iowa. For years volunteers have taken time from their operations and invest them in our youth. Schools are pressured to meet an ever growing list of requirements regarding content and standards of curriculum. In respond to these changes, Farm Bureau along with other agriculture interests have recently developed the Agricultural Literacy Council. This group will take existing materials from Iowa commodity groups and create lesson plans for various age groups and curriculums and the STEM criteria met. With the council serving as a clearing house for reliable agricultural information, lesson plans and visuals will be available immediately. Teachers, schools and volunteers will have the ability to present the “other side” of the agriculture story.

    It is extremely easy to not get involved in your community, state or nation. Just because it is easy doesn’t make it right though. I encourage you to become involved and please don’t overlook what is happening in the lives of your children, grandchildren or those of the neighbors. Telling the story of agriculture is more important today than ever.  If you don’t tell the story, rest assured someone else sure is and we could have a generation of children that believe feeding corn to cows is a form of animal abuse.

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