There are many things one can learn from farming that apply to education. So much of what drives educators crazy is found in what has driven farmers into the poor house. For quite some time now we have been asking questions of efficiency and profit in both disciplines. What we should be asking are questions of cause. What are we trying to do? How can we ensure that we get that done? What will produce the most fruitful and sustainable means to those ends?
In farming, the answers have amounted to more productivity (which sounds good, who doesn’t want more food for less cost?). I believe education has gained this perspective as well, wanting to provide for college entrance and a good job more than any higher ends. At the heart of this problem is a disregard for the “soil” of both disciplines. Farmers believe you can push soil to do anything if you use science to overcome deficits. A very similar belief exists in school – just use the right technology, techniques, etc. and you can get any test scores you want.
But what if the end you are seeking is not possible apart from healthy soil? In farming, despite all our best efforts, much of America’s farmland is over taxed and burnt. All the chemicals can not build it back up again. Only the farm that has been cared for, especially as to its soil’s capacity and proper use, can continue to provide for the farmer. Only the student whose soul is properly tended can be truly taught, if your goals in mind are things such as virtue and wisdom, of life and beauty, not just a ticket to college and “good” job (read “high paying). Out of a soul a man brings forth a life and family that is either aimed at the good, the true, and the beautiful, or not. Technique does not result in this end. It is not measurable on test scores.
It is the lost vision of both farmers and educators, for good soil, that needs to be recovered.