Jeb Bush on Milk

The Tampa Bay paper reports that Jeb Bush thinks education in America should be more like milk.

The event: an education summit sponsored by his Foundation for Excellence in Education, which Bush formed after leaving office in 2007. Big-name wonks and policymakers from around the country are on hand, digesting panel discussions on everything from teacher quality to national standards.

Education should be more like milk, Bush told them Thursday. It’s all about options.

“You can get flavored milk — chocolate, strawberry or vanilla — that doesn’t even taste like milk,” he said. “Most of the time, there is a whole other refrigerator case dedicated to milk alternatives — like soy milk, almond milk and rice milk. They even make milk for people who can’t drink milk.”

“Who would have ever thought you could improve upon milk? Yet, freedom, innovation and competition found a way.”

Milk? Seriously?

OK, Mr. ex-Governor & Mr. Bother-of-ex-President…. I’ll drink.  I’ll take my milk locally milked, organically grown, BGH-free, and sustainably produced, on a small, family-run dairy farm, with access to the Internet for regular information feeds on the health of the cows, the price of milk, and demonstrable evidence that the cows live in a pasture where they can learn to do their own thing instead of being cooped up in an industrial building mired in their own urine and manure.  With fresh strawberries in season, and fair trade chocolate, thanks very much.  And standardized testing to ensure they’re free of Mad Cow Disease and Scrapie, but otherwise free do do cow-like things in the appropriate time.

Seriously, though.  Who thinks up these dumb analogies?  Maybe the same people who make standardized tests that don’t test anything.

I asked one of my students about this, and he said, “maybe milk is public education. And Strawberry, Vanilla and Chocolate are elementary, middle, and high school.  And 2% is vocational, and fat-free is talented/gifted.  And the alternatives to milk are different kinds of private and theraputic education.”

Wow.  He didn’t get that from prepping for a standardized test.  But he frowned too.  “It doesn’t make sense,” he said.  “You don’t grow up preferring one type of milk to another, or grow up to move from one kind of milk to the other.  And some people don’t even like milk, or are allergic. And ice cream, and the various kinds of cream and butter aren’t even in his analogy.”

Why do people who talk about education in the spotlight of the national and regional media always sound like such idiots?  It’s either “Our children are our most vital resource,” or “education needs to be more like _X_.”  (where X is milk if you’re from a southern state, or cotton if you’re from a dairy state [OH! Maybe that’s it! Something produced somewhere else, and delivered to us by refrigerated truck, with the political and economic costs borne by someone else!].

And it’s neither one nor the other, neither fish nor fowl nor fruit.

Because education isn’t something to be consumed, in the same way that milk is.  It’s a process of self-training, interpersonal awareness, and fundamental connection with what it means to be human.  In milk terms, it’s the addition of the rennet and curds that transforms milk into cheese — something different, more mature, potentially more valuable — and in an utterly irreversible way. My friend Glenn might call it “wholly owned.”

It’s worth noting that the U.S., and many states, forbid in various forms the handling of milk in ways that produce the most unusual and flavorful cheese.  It seems that we forbid many of the most creative ways of training our children, too.

Because, after all, to some parts of our society, education should be like milk: highly processed, fungible, fumigated, clean, controlled, profitable, subsidized, sealed, closed up and protected from {en}light{enment}.

Yeah.  Excuse me while I try to find the path to the cheese aisle.  At my local farmer’s market.

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