October 8, 2007- Support Ag in the Classroom

I have been a supporter of the Ag in the Classroom program for many years, and for several reasons. The two most important are the need to get agricultural education, particularly education about animal agriculture, into the classrooms of fourth-grade students in towns and cities across the country. Secondly, the program works! It does tell the story of agriculture in a very positive way, to counter-balance the claims of organizations such as “PETA”, People for Ethical Treatment of Animals, that are generally based on emotion, not sound science. So I encourage you to support Ag in the Classroom; to start that education at an early age, and help people understand the role of animal agriculture in the food chain.

The reason I bring it up now is because of a happening in an elementary school about 10 miles from where I live. A 44-year-old art teacher became a vegetarian about a year ago and decided it was time to tell his students that vegetarianism was “the only way to go”. He gave material to his students in the classroom that depicted any foods from animal agriculture as poison and dangerous to their health and encouraged them to take the material home and share it with their family.

He said he felt he had the right to do this because there were posters in the school cafeteria promoting the health benefits of milk and dairy products and the “Three-a-Day Dairy” program. When school officials refused to remove the posters, he said he felt compelled and within his rights to warn his students of his perceived health danger in consuming dairy products. He was angered by the school decision, decided to take things into his own hands, and instead of teaching art full-time, spent part of his classroom time teaching his students to become vegetarians.

It didn’t take long for parents, who felt it was their responsibility to teach their children good eating habits, to register their complaints. They told school officials that teaching vegetarianism on school time was wrong and the teacher should be instructed to stop and stick to teaching art. When he refused, he was first suspended, and then on a 7-0 vote by the School Board was dismissed.

I commend the School Board for its action, but incidents like this simply reinforce the need for the Ag in the Classroom program. I am delighted by the involvement of farm organizations who financially support the program. And I am especially pleased with farm families who establish personal contacts with classes in city schools with videotape of their farming operations and classroom visits to explain what they do and what it takes to put wholesome nutritious food on the dinner table of those students.

I urge you to support Ag in the Classroom.

My thoughts on Samuelson Sez.