At the school board meeting on August 26, 2019, in a 2-1 vote (2 Board members were absent) the School Board Directors voted to approve the adoption of a new textbook for a new course at the CTE (Career and Technical Education) at the CASEE center. The course: Agroecology, The Ecology of Sustainable Food Systems. It is a course for juniors and there will be one section. (15-20 students will access the course.) It replaces a Food Science Course that was taught at CASEE. Food Science will still be taught elsewhere. (BGHS and PHS). [Note: There is a “Field and Laboratory Investigations” manual that will be used as supplementary material in the class.]
Board member Monty Anderson and Board member Rob Henrikson were not present. Voting yes were School Board President Troy McCoy and Mark Watrin. The lone no vote was Tina Lambert.
You may ask so what? That’s what this article is about. We’ll make the case, using exact words from the preface, introduction and chapters of the book that this is a socialist/communist set of values masquerading as a course about sustainable farming practices. The book author is seeking to create a social movement to implement his views and needs students to take the mantle and carry the banner as “social warriors”.
What is the definition of Agroecology? Merriam Wester says: “Definition of agroecology: an ecological approach to agriculture that views agricultural areas as ecosystems and is concerned with the ecological impact of agricultural practices” Science Daily says: Agroecology is the science of applying ecological concepts and principles to the design, development, and management of sustainable agricultural systems.”
So that sounds reasonable…right? Ok…so let’s look at the textbook the BGSD has chosen to use to teach the topic. Here’s the link to the book at Amazon in case you want to read the description by the author/publisher: https://www.amazon.com/Package-Price-Agroecology-Ecology-Sustainable/dp/1439895619/ref=sr_1_1?hvadid=3521324050&hvbmt=be&hvdev=c&hvqmt=e&keywords=agroecology&qid=1567273401&s=gateway&sr=8-1
What does the author/publisher say? “The book begins with a focus on the key ecological factors and resources that impact agricultural plants and animals as individual organisms. It then examines all of the components of agroecosystem complexity, from genetics to landscapes and explores the transition process for achieving sustainability and indicators of progress. The book then delves into power and control of food systems by agribusiness, and the need to develop a new paradigm that moves beyond production and explores issues of food justice, equity, food security and sovereignty. It concludes with a call to action so that research and education can link together for transformative change in our food systems.”
The BGSD said they reviewed two (2) books for the course and this was preferable. Please note that on the Amazon page there appear to be ~6 books on the topic. I could not find out what the name of the other book was and why it was not chosen.
So…I heard about the book and made an appointment to go to the district office to review the textbook. Please note that there is a manual that was not available for review. I also asked if there was a summary review by the person/committee who reviewed the two choices…there was nothing available. I can only comment about the textbook in the 1hr 20m time I spent reading it. I took extensive notes. I wrote those notes up and emailed them to the Board members. I also met with my local board representative to discuss my review and ask them to vote no (they voted Yes). Here is the letter I emailed to all 5 board directors on the Friday before the August 26th meeting: Agroecology Third Edition – Review – Rylander – Aug212019 Let me share some of the comments made in the textbook. You judge whether this book is academically honest or whether it’s really an attempt to push a socialist/communist philosophy and attempt to convert students in the authors apostles and social warriors.
“We need a food system that fosters the important indicators of sustainability such as equity, fairness, and satisfaction for all, rather than domination that benefits the few”
“Agricultural curricula must focus beyond the narrowness of specialization, reductionism, and methodologies that primarily emphasize high yields and maximizing profits for those in power.”
“By the time you work through this deft exposition, you will understand why agriculture must be fundamentally transformed, how ecological science can be applied to that end, and how social movements are as essential to that transformation as is the understanding of trophic interactions”
“Finally, this book is a declaration of purpose: the intent to apply knowledge to improve and sustain the dignity of life for all, human and otherwise”
“But as an intellectual and moral challenge, this is nothing short of a call for epochal culture shift”
“We must understand the dynamics of economic and political power and its ability to limit, shape, and control the food system”
“Turning knowledge into social action on behalf of greater human well-being is the ultimate responsibility of the learned, which is to share the insights that the generosity of others has allowed one to derive, in a perpetual chain of meaning and moral action”
“It became obvious to me as an agroecologist that we needed to expand the scope of the field beyond the growing and eating of food”
“We need to find a political voice, align closely with social movements, and focus on developing a grass roots and community based alternative food system that could grow outward and eventually make the industrial food system obsolete”
“Venturing beyond farms, we encounter economic systems of varying scales, political institutions, values and beliefs, patterns of behavior, social structures and the like”
“Although these aspects of human society are all outside the traditional purview of agronomy and even much of agroecological consideration, they form the context within which agroecology must operate if it hopes to move the food system toward sustainability”
This retired professor detests large farming corporations and wants them to disappear. The book is an effort to condemn capitalism. There are no counter arguments. There is no balance. This is a one-way diatribe railing about the evils of the few who oppress and keep the many under their thumbs while destroying the environment and raping the land. With this type of “education” we can see the direction our society will take…if this dogma is left unchallenged.
Yes it’s only one course. Yes it’s only at CASEE in the CTE program. Only 15-20 juniors will be exposed. I was told that the teacher was consulted and would keep the course balanced so we need to trust him/her (or their future replacement) that only the appropriate materials will be used and there will be balance. How do we know that will happen? Given other past actions of the district and school board can we trust them? This type of small intrusion is an entry point and is a slippery slope…but “trust us”.
I bring this to your attention so you are aware and can decide whether it’s an issue or not. For me it is. If you have thoughts please take the time to share them with the School Board and the district leadership. To say nothing is to support their efforts for if they don’t hear complaints they will assume their actions and decisions are what the public wants.