The Case for Food in the Curriculum
Cultivation to the mind is as necessary as food to the body.
- Marcus Tullius Cicero
What we eat makes a huge difference to our lives. Whether it's concentration, energy levels or risk of heart disease, it shapes who we are. But what we eat, the way it's produced and the way we consume it, also has a huge impact on our environment and society. That being the case, is it time to make food more central to the school curriculum?
Better education = better decisions:
Better informed people can make better decisions. It's a simple connection, one on which our whole education system is founded. So if we want people to eat more healthily, so that they can live longer, fuller lives and put less strain on our health system, then we need to ensure that they are well informed about food. Where better to start than in the classroom?
For this to work it's not enough to just teach some basic principles - eat more fruit and vegetables, don't spend so much time in McDonalds. We need to teach how to do this as well. How to find the best food at the best prices, how to plan and to cook. And we need to give enough time and attention to the subject for children and their parents to take it seriously. A couple of cookery lessons near the end of term won't do that.
Connecting the big and the small:
Making informed decisions also means understanding how our decisions affect others. What we eat affects our environment, our economy, our local society. It's a hugely important decision that we make and enact every day. Teaching the impact of that decision, helping children to consider the consequences and so become adults who consider those consequences, could do a lot of good for society.
Fitting it in:
Really giving this the time and attention is deserves would involve big changes to the curriculum, and we already face many of those. But there are ways that food can feature more in the lessons we already teach. Looking more at nutrition in science. Exploring farming production systems in geography. Expanding and improving existing cookery lessons. It can easily be done, all it takes is a little thought.
What it's all about:
Education is meant to prepare children for life. Yet we spend more time teaching algebra, which most will never use beyond the classroom, than we do teaching about cooking and eating, which they will do every day of their lives. I'm not saying that we should abandon Pythagoras in favour of pizza, but perhaps it's time to balance the scales. Perhaps it's time to pay more attention to what education is really all about.
Picture by Masahiro Ihara via Flickr creative commons
About Andrew Knighton
I'm a writer and ex-teacher. You can find more of my writing on education at: http://www.degreediary.com/bloggers/27 I also have a blog on reading and writing: https://andrewknighton.wordpress.com/