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Monday, November 7, 2011

Fast Food vs. Slow Food. Fast Education vs. Slow Education

I've been working on my weight with a heightened degree of resolve recently. It seems that I've gradually gained weight while I either lost focus or looked the other way. Perhaps I allowed time constraints to lead me toward the convenience of "fast food" more than I should have. Maybe it was the perception that it might also be less expensive too. At any rate, I made a conscious effort to address my concern by examining what I eat in terms of content, how often I eat in terms of intent, and the quantity that I eat in terms of extent. That's it - content, intent, and extent. I've lost twelve pounds since August 1st.

Along the way I also paid more attention to the origin of the food I consume. In this case, I became a frequent visitor to the Troy Farmer's Market each Saturday morning. This weekly event offered an opportunity to support local farmers by purchasing food grown in the area. Organic foods began to represent a higher percentage of my diet.

Now, I'm not here to preach to you about your weight, or promote what you should eat or avoid. Instead, I want you to consider the slow food movement versus fast foods as a parallel to a similar contrast in education. Let me explain by first displaying the definition of the slow food movement as related in Wikipedia, along with an explanation of fast food from the same source:

Slow Food is an international movement founded by Carlo Petreni in 1986. Promoted as an alternative to fast food, it strives to preserve traditional and regional cuisine and encourages farming of plants, seeds and livestock characteristic of the local ecosystem. It was the first established part of the broader Slow movement. The movement has since expanded globally to over 100,000 members in 132 countries. Its goals of sustainable foods and promotion of local small businesses are paralleled by a political agenda directed against globalization of agricultural products.

Fast food is the term given to food that can be prepared and served very quickly. While any meal with low preparation time can be considered to be fast food, typically the term refers to food sold in a restaurant or store with preheated or precooked ingredients, and served to the customer in a packaged form for take-out/take-away.

Now that you've been able to compare the two terms you can more easily apply them to two very different forms of education. I contend that the steady stream of state and federal mandates (No Child Left Behind is a perfect example) have left schools across the nation more homogeneous. These mandates likewise present a curriculum of conformity that is already prepared and preheated and served in a packaged form. This process of imposition creates a uniform taste of standardization that lacks the nuances of regional interests and flavors and virtually eliminates unique differences that emerge from variations in farming techniques, climate adaptations, ecological characteristics and seeds. The consumer grabs a package from a fast food place that all look the same no matter what state they're in, and taste the same no matter what state they're in, and provided by people in the same uniform no matter what state they're in. Uniqueness is sacrificed for regulatory requirements that insure commonality. This results in fast education.

Slow education, on the other hand, allows each farmer and cook to adapt their element in the overall process to meet the desires of those consumers they serve. Local beliefs and values are central to this process. Differences matter and unique properties are respected. Taste is paramount and reflects the peculiarities of different regions and locales. Care and time are both considered viable investments that contribute to something flavorful worth waiting for and enjoying.The relationship between the farmer, the cook, and the consumer is valuable and personal in slow food, and so it should be with slow education.

What's happened to local input that evolves from the interests, values, and beliefs of a community? As we standardize and nationalize our educational systems we lose intimate involvement and direct accountability. Who selects and plants the seeds? Who nurtures the growth? Where's the connection and pride in providing a service to others in the community? Where's the nutrition in all this?

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