An Excerpt from Jim Conrad's
NATURALIST NEWSLETTER
of September 20, 2009
Issued from the Siskiyou Mountains west of Grants Pass, Oregon, USA
DIGGING POTATOES

This spring when Bob visited from California he kindly brought along some potatoes for me to plant. All summer I've been watching them grow and this week I dug them. You can see some nice ones at http://www.backyardnature.net/n/09/090920po.jpg.

What a pleasure it was digging those potatoes! Something about digging  potatoes strikes a chord in me, something not rational. There's just something about digging potatoes that turns me on.

Actually, I have a theory as to why I enjoy digging potatoes. I believe that most people are created predisposed to fulfill one or more functions useful to any healthy, thriving, village-type community. And I was meant to be a gardener/teacher.

I believe that if you take any random grouping of humans of village size anyplace on Earth, if each person were encouraged to "get in touch with his or her inner selves," it'd be found that enough people will have been born with such a variety of natural predispositions that if you put them all together they'll automatically be inclined to do all the jobs a thriving community needs to have done.

People with take-care-of-others urges would become gifted and fulfilled nurses and social workers. Those with weapon fixations and highly developed concepts of structured authority would become honored police and soldiers, and those loving to work with tools and their hands would be builders. Always a few artists and artisans, magicians and jugglers would appear out of nowhere, and they would be welcome for how they enrich community life. Also always a fair percentage of people would report having no particular urges at all but would be willing to go along with whatever everyone else is doing, and those folks also would be honored for their useful flexibility and agreeableness.

To some extent society already is structured along these lines, but still far too many people get stuck in unfulfilling jobs and enjoy too little peer recognition. Our society is based on making money and accruing wealth, with impersonal corporations and agencies making the big decisions. Taking advantage of each person's natural gifts and psychic needs is less important than having the person doing a corporation's bidding. Our schools are complicit.

For, especially with today's "No Child Left Behind," our teachers use standardized curricula to fulfill standardized quotas, with the goal of achieving, at least on paper, standardized scholastic results. To take advantage of each child's natural predispositions, our schooling must change to just the opposite of how it is.

The first task of schooling must become to discover what special gift each child brings to the community. Teachers must be encouraged to exercise their own special talents and their own special insights to assure that each student's natural gifts and natural interests are nurtured. A system of apprenticeships such as I've seen in Germany would be an important feature of this new system.

For my part, if I'm still around when that golden day arrives, give me access to a garden and I'll be more than happy to share my potatoes with you, and to teach any apprentice how such bounteous crops are produced. Facebook Icon