Two trucks passed our school buses going in the opposite direction. Loaded with white chickens locked into stacked cages, you could just barely make out their red combs and silent faces. Feathers from the slipstream were lofted into the air like loose straw from a hay truck.
In one bus some of the 8th graders laughed--"if I'm going to have to eat them, I'd rather see them in McNugget form"; in the other bus the students went silent and someone said, "ah, that's sad."
So there we have the human dilemma. Lovely people face a complicated world and respond differently at different times--context, mood, and ever-shifting group dynamics.
That same day we stopped at Dos Santos church. An older gentleman of measured and slow-stepping delivery gave a long presentation on a history that began in the 17th century and brought us up to the present moment. At some point an utterly profound silence fell over the 71 students. When he finished, without a word of prompting, the entire 8th grade applauded in a graceful gesture of respect. They caught his intent, his sincerity, his effort to reach them.
Our 8th graders are far from sainthood. They can be far louder than they realize and capable of selective focus that suits their rising and falling energy levels. Yet they have depth upon depth, and even as we have occasionally fumbled as adults with the schedule and pacing in a pilot program, they have given generously with their attention and energy because the trust goes in both directions. We have learned so much about each other.
But it is more than chickens that are locked in cages. Driving past Tyson poultry farms, we pass long aluminum-sided chickenhouses--no windows and no doors that are ever open. We are not welcomed into those places. We heard from one worker at the vineyard reflect on his former experience working in such a place. He said in Spanish: "The noise was endless, and we workers were crowded together. It was like being locked in a cage."
So it is more than workers and chickens locked in cages. The Eastern shore too is locked in a cage of circumstances due to human encorachments. How do we raise students to observe, analyze and solve these dilemmas? Soon enough the solutions will become this generation’s inescapable challenge. To unlock the causation that confines us tightly in the cages of cause and effect will not be easy.
To this we heard from two farmers yesterday.
A vintner said: "It is we who must adapt to the timing of nature."
And the founder of Copper Cricket Farm told our 13 and 14- year olds: "We don't inherit the land from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children."
Thus the challenges of sustainability, and achieving a world of equity and justice for a universe of humans, oysters, water, marshes and pollinators.
We have yet a world to grow and to tend.