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Re: [xmca] War and food

*You are right on target Peter!*
*Here is a short piece on that topic.*
*Robert L.*

Bill Bigelow <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bill-bigelow>

Co-director, Zinn Education Project; Curriculum editor, Rethinking Schools

 The Real Irish American Story Not Taught in Schools
 Posted: 03/14/2012 3:33 pm

 "Wear green on St. Patrick's Day or get pinched." That pretty much sums up
the Irish American "curriculum" that I learned when I was in school. Yes, I
recall a nod to the so-called Potato Famine, but it was mentioned only in

 Sadly, today's high school textbooks continue to largely ignore the
famine, despite the fact that it was responsible for unimaginable suffering
and the deaths of more than a million Irish peasants, and that it triggered
the greatest wave of Irish immigration in U.S. history. Nor do textbooks
make any attempt to help students link famines past and present.

 Yet there is no shortage of material that can bring these dramatic events
to life in the classroom. In my own high school social studies classes, I
begin with Sinead O'Connor's haunting rendition of "Skibbereen," which
includes the verse:

 *... Oh it's well I do remember, that bleak*

 *December day,*

 *The landlord and the sheriff came, to drive*

 *Us all away*

 *They set my roof on fire, with their cursed*

 *English spleen*

 *And that's another reason why I left old*


 By contrast, Holt McDougal's U.S. history textbook *The Americans*,
devotes a flat two sentences to "The Great Potato Famine." Prentice
Hall's *America:
Pathways to the Present *fails to offer a single quote from the time. The
text calls the famine a "horrible disaster," as if it were a natural
calamity like an earthquake. And in an awful single paragraph, Houghton
Mifflin's *The Enduring Vision: A History of the American People* blames
the "ravages of famine" simply on "a blight," and the only contemporaneous
quote comes, inappropriately, from a landlord, who describes the surviving
tenants as "famished and ghastly skeletons." Uniformly, social studies
textbooks fail to allow the Irish to speak for themselves, to narrate their
own horror.

 These timid slivers of knowledge not only deprive students of rich lessons
in Irish-American history -- they exemplify much of what is wrong with
today's curricular reliance on corporate-produced textbooks.

 First, does anyone really think that students will remember anything from
the books' dull and lifeless paragraphs? Today's textbooks contain no
stories of actual people. We meet no one, learn nothing of anyone's life,
encounter no injustice, no resistance. This is a curriculum bound for
boredom. As someone who spent almost 30 years teaching high school social
studies, I can testify that students will be unlikely to seek to learn more
about events so emptied of drama, emotion, and humanity.

 Nor do these texts raise any critical questions for students to consider.
For example, it's important for students to learn that the crop failure in
Ireland affected* only* the potato -- during the worst famine years, other
food production was robust. Michael Pollan notes in *The Botany of Desire*,
"Ireland's was surely the biggest experiment in monoculture ever attempted
and surely the most convincing proof of its folly." But if only this one
variety of potato, the Lumper, failed, and other crops thrived, why did
people starve?

 Thomas Gallagher points out in *Paddy's Lament*, that during the first
winter of famine, 1846-47, as perhaps 400,000 Irish peasants starved,
landlords exported 17 million pounds sterling worth of grain, cattle, pigs,
flour, eggs, and poultry -- food that could have prevented those deaths.
Throughout the famine, as Gallagher notes, there was an abundance of food
produced in Ireland, yet the landlords exported it to markets abroad.

 The school curriculum could and should ask students to reflect on the
contradiction of starvation amidst plenty, on the ethics of food exports
amidst famine. And it should ask why these patterns persist into our own

 More than a century and a half after the "Great Famine," we live with
similar, perhaps even more glaring contradictions. Raj Patel opens his
book, *Stuffed and Starved: Markets, Power and the Hidden Battle for the
World's Food System*: "Today, when we produce more food than ever before,
more than one in ten people on Earth are hungry. The hunger of 800 million
happens at the same time as another historical first: that they are
outnumbered by the one billion people on this planet who are overweight."

 Patel's book sets out to account for "the rot at the core of the modern
food system." This is a curricular journey that our students should also be
on -- reflecting on patterns of poverty, power, and inequality that stretch
from 19th-century Ireland to 21st-century Africa, India, Appalachia, and
Oakland -- that explore what happens when food and land are regarded purely
as commodities in a global system of profit.

 But today's corporate textbook-producers are no more interested in feeding
student curiosity about this inequality than were British landlords
interested in feeding Irish peasants. Take Pearson, the global publishing
giant. At its website, the corporation announces (redundantly) that "we
measure our progress against three key measures: earnings, cash and return
on invested capital." The Pearson empire had 2011 worldwide sales of more
than $9 billion -- that's nine thousand million dollars, as I might tell my
students. Multinationals like Pearson have no interest in promoting
critical thinking about an economic system whose profit-first premises they
embrace with gusto.

 As mentioned, there is no absence of teaching materials on the Irish
famine that can touch head and heart. In a role play, "Hunger on Trial,"
that I wrote and taught to my own students in Portland, Ore. -- included at
the Zinn Education Project website -- students investigate who or what was
responsible for the famine. The British landlords, who demanded rent from
the starving poor and exported other food crops? The British government,
which allowed these food exports and offered scant aid to Irish peasants?
The Anglican Church, which failed to denounce selfish landlords or to act
on behalf of the poor? A system of distribution, which sacrificed Irish
peasants to the logic of colonialism and the capitalist market?

 These are rich and troubling ethical questions. They are exactly the kind
of issues that fire students to life and allow them to see that history is
not simply a chronology of dead facts stretching through time.

 So go ahead: Have a Guinness, wear a bit of green, and put on the
Chieftains. But let's honor the Irish with our curiosity. Let's make sure
that our schools show some respect, by studying the social forces that
starved and uprooted over a million Irish -- and that are starving and
uprooting people today.

On Tue, May 8, 2012 at 9:18 AM, Peter Smagorinsky <smago@uga.edu> wrote:

> Interesting Michael. It's pretty clear now that the Irish potato famine
> was not caused by lack of food (exports rose during the famine), but was a
> manipulation of markets to reduce the Catholic population of Ireland by
> Protestants in power. So, it's genocide rather than war, but the same
> principle holds.
> From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu] On
> Behalf Of Michael Glassman
> Sent: Tuesday, May 08, 2012 9:01 AM
> To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
> Subject: RE: [xmca] War and food
> Hi Peter,
> The Bengali economist Amartya Sen did one of the most fascinating studies
> I have seen (I believe he won the Nobel Prize for it) on the causes of
> famine
> Sen, Amartya, Poverty and Famines : An Essay on Entitlements and
> Deprivation, Oxford, Clarendon Press,
> His thesis, well supported I think, is that famine is not the result of
> lack of food.  Generally there is enough food to maintain populations in
> almost every circumstance.  Famine instead is the result of either lack of
> communication or purposeful miscommunication (those dispersing food either
> hoard supplies and claim that there is not enough, or make distribution
> systems opaque and/or confusing so people who are hungry don't know where
> to go).
> Taken together with the book you refer ot (of which I have only read the
> review) it seems there is a very real possibility that instead of lack of
> calories causing war, that centralized government manipulates food supplies
> in order to drive their population towards war.
> It also raises questions of whether food supplies are manipulated for
> other reasons.
> MIchael
> ________________________________
> From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu<mailto:xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu> on
> behalf of Peter Smagorinsky
> Sent: Tue 5/8/2012 8:46 AM
> To: lchcmike@gmail.com<mailto:lchcmike@gmail.com>; eXtended Mind,
> Culture,Activity
> Subject: RE: [xmca] War and food
> Mike et al., those who find this article and book interesting might also
> be interested in: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plagues_and_Peoples
> The emphasis is on the role of disease in human history in shaping
> societies, but food and disease often go hand in hand, with the help of
> animals. p
> -----Original Message-----
> From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu<mailto:xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu>
> [mailto:xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu] On Behalf Of mike cole
> Sent: Monday, May 07, 2012 4:02 PM
> To: eXtended Mind, Culture,Activity
> Subject: [xmca] War and food
> This book review from the Sunday NY Times provides a thought provoking
> re-thinking of the circumstances leading up to WWII that seems more than a
> little relevant to the world's current circumstances and the links between
> political economy and ideology.
> mike
>        [image: The New York Times] <http://www.nytimes.com/>      *
> *
>  * *
>  * On Their Stomachs
> <
> http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/06/books/review/the-taste-of-war-by-lizzie-collingham.html?emc=eta1
> >
> *
>               Copyright 2012
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*Robert Lake  Ed.D.
*Assistant Professor
Social Foundations of Education
Dept. of Curriculum, Foundations, and Reading
Georgia Southern University
P. O. Box 8144
Phone: (912) 478-5125
Fax: (912) 478-5382
Statesboro, GA  30460

 *Democracy must be born anew in every generation, and education is its
*-*John Dewey.
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