Last week I had the opportunity to attend part of a conference at The University of Scranton called “The Sacrifice of Teaching.” The session I attended included presenters from the University of Scranton, Misericordia University and Gregory the Great Academy.
One common thread through their presentations was that the crisis in education can be attributed to the fact that for at least a century, mainstream education has been standing on its head: not only is the world of the student exchanged for the world as it is with the teacher as guide, but the end of education has become reduced to the world of the almighty dollar. So if the expertise of the teacher has any value, it is strictly in helping the student earn a living rather than helping the student live well.
Regardless of whether this assessment is true in education, I have been thinking about whether it is true in the world of the outdoors: Have the demands of Master Dollar driven us indoors to the point where we have forgotten that there is goodness to be experienced outside?
I have been thinking about end games: Does our society’s vision of a good living include first-hand experience outdoors? In societal terms, “rich” people are able to buy fresh fruits and vegetables instead of growing them. “Rich” people can afford to live in neighborhoods with ordinances ensuring that their peace can be undisturbed by the crow of a “poor” neighbor’s rooster or the bray of a “poor” neighbor’s goat. So “rich” people’s children cannot know the fulfillment of gathering and eating their own eggs, milk and meat. But the “rich” are able to send their own barking dogs out of the air-conditioned quiet to disturb the neighbors from the confines of their invisibly fenced yards.
As for the yards, “rich” people are able to afford to pay others to design, build, and maintain them. “Rich” people do not even need to know the names and characteristics of their plants, since as long as their plants adorn rather than abase their homes’ appearances in the eyes of the “Joneses” next door, the concern of the landscape can be left to the landscaper.
But it’s not that “rich” people don’t appreciate natural beauty. No, they spend large sums of money to go on eco-tours in tropical or Arctic regions. And they buy suntans to prove it.
So as portrayed in Frances Hodgson Burnett’s 1911 “The Secret Garden,” the gardener occupies the lower strata of society.
Yet, as Douglas Green writes, millennia ago, “Gardener” was one name for the king in Assyria.
Further, “what appears to us as fairly unexciting activities—irrigation projects and the cultivation of a garden and a vineyard—were for the ancients clear evidence of royal greatness.”
This spring, will you consider becoming rich by joining the gardener King outside?
Joshua Arp is an ISA-certified municipal specialist, Clarks Summit’s municipal arborist and an operator of an organic lawn and landscape maintenance business. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.