Our society takes the education of its children as much for granted as it takes raising some common food crops. It is only when something goes wrong that we think about the process.
In the case of children, we may wait until incarceration to think about the Head Start programs or low-cost preschools.
In raising potatoes, when the crop fails, it is too late to think about pest and weed control. If the soil is not good for growing, you take care of it first or regret it later.
As children gradually mature to adulthood, their growth is a continual process that takes an investment of time, energy and resources. Just as in farming, you cannot plant a seed and forget it.
One ancient habit was to eat the big potatoes and save the little ones for seed. Thus, year after year, the crop got smaller and smaller. Just as with children, you need to invest the best to reap the biggest harvest.
Potatoes are said to have originated in Peru and traveled to Europe with explorers. The Irish, who have long been connected with this nightshade plant, took them for granted until blight came along, and reliance on the crop caused a great famine beginning in 1845.
We cannot take our children for granted, either.
Free public education has been a hallmark in America and has made us one of the strongest nations in the world. Yet, we now rank down the list in the world on our ongoing investment in children’s education.
Our governor said that education would be his No. 1 priority. We now spend more in California for prisons than on our schools. This is like buying a huge harvester-sorter without investing in a good planter.
California consistently falls at the bottom of per-pupil spending and highest in prisons.
While the part of the potato plant we value matures hidden underground, the plant itself flowers and bears fruit. This fruit contains large amounts of the toxic alkaloid solanine. You do not eat what shows.
When it comes to our children, it is not what they wear or what kind of car they arrive at school in, but how much they are growing. It is not the rhetoric about how important they are. It is what we are willing to do to raise them.
Raising good children is not small potatoes.
• Mike McLellan can be contacted by calling and leaving a message at 830-4201 or emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org.