can I eat this? yes!


The American education system sucks and should be overhauled from K-PhD. And, no, I’m not a tea party-er.

Who really needs—for instance—the sheer amount of algebra that’s now taught? It may be fun (to some people) but it’s abstract, doesn’t stick in 95% of anyone’s head and has little practical application to living. If you want to be a mathematician or engineer, fine—take all the classes you want. But don’t bully the rest of us with it. I’m more than fine with math basics, thank you.

We’d all get more actual fun and practical human benefit from creative writing or painting classes. BTW, the arts should not be optional in any way; they give a “body” way more than the subject taught. But that’s for another rant.

This is about the need for real knowledge. People are starving for it.

I’m talking about how to cook (not follow a recipe), bake bread, make sauerkraut, iron a shirt, discuss psychology, sew on buttons, make red wine and get its stain off carpets, clean spinach, grow veggies, raise chickens, fix a flat, tune up your bike, navigate your computer…and most of all, recognize the natural world you live in.

How many of us know the flora and fauna in the parks and forests we live near? Most disparage “bees” when they actually mean yellow jackets. [see: not bees] Who enjoys edibles growing outside their urban door: clover, dandelions, violets? or understands the moon cycles, other cultures’ foods? Do you know how to identify mushrooms in the woods or palatable berries growing off the trees in your local park?

I had a wild mushroom biz for 11 years, foraging myself, but more often buying from pickers. Many of these people didn’t have bank accounts and some were virtually illiterate. But, what they knew about the natural world was bountiful!

Now there’s talk in CA about regulating wild mushroom pickers with certifications. I’ll tell you what: I’d buy from a toothless, bright-eyed, mountain wo/man making her/his living in the forest—season to season—before some kid with a degree.

The school systems are falling down but it’s not due to the teachers! Those lion-hearted souls deserve CEO pay. It’s the administrations, the politicians with their broadsides about “family” and “testing” all the while pushing teachers to force-feed abstractions into developing minds who gag trying to swallow it, when they’d so much prefer to learn to sing on pitch, write a mystery story, can blueberry jam, play drums, intelligently explore politics not sound bites, ultimately run a city, raise decent humans, commune with larches or connect with the universe.

2 thoughts on “can I eat this? yes!

  1. There definitely needs to be an overhaul to the American education system. An ongoing overhaul at that. But I must speak up for math because there is a LOT of value there. I didn’t get it during my early schooling, my teachers sucked, the curriculum sucked, I sucked 🙂 . Later, I got into the software industry and realized the importance of math. Math is one of the important languages that the universe speaks. God is a mathematician. (Notice tongue in cheek.)

    What we need now is a different approach to math education. I agree with what Conrad Wolfram says in this TED talk:

    In essence we need to stop teaching kids to calculate, that is tedious and boring. A change of perspective will allow our big brains to move on to other things.

    And to the larger question of what to teach, I’ll say this. We only learn a limited amount in schools, the rest we take up on our own and through our relationships. My mom taught me how to read, my dad taught me how to change a tire, friends taught me how to use computers… Civilization provides me with people who can grow my food, rewire my house, and build me a global computing infrastructure so I can read your blog. Because of this I am free to do other things (and contribute back in other ways). I don’t think that everyone needs to know the flora and fauna around them, but it is good that some do and that they can help the rest of us when we need it.


    • See, math worked for you and what you do. Didn’t do a thing for me and what I do. Yes, a new approach to math is needed but less of it should be required for like ten years. If people were made to sing, for instance, for as many semesters and years as forced to take math, we’d have a much happier world. 🙂


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