A Weekly Column
By Joseph Walker


It was late, I was channel-hopping and I had the munchies.

That's a dangerous combination especially when hopping by the Discovery Channel.

I don't know what it is, but there's something about watching Komodo Dragons ripping and tearing their way through . . . well, whatever that poor creature was before the Dragons happened upon its sorry carcass. It makes you feel . . . you know . . . carnivorous.

So I unwrapped a piece of processed lunch meat and was getting ready to chomp it down when it suddenly occurred to me that I wasn't altogether unlike those Dragons. I was about to eat meat that I didn't kill myself.

As a result, I didn't know for sure what it was or how it got there, and I sure as heck don't know if it had any value nutritional or otherwise. I just knew that "beef" was written on the packaging, and I was hungry enough to eat it.

Come to think of it, I don't think I've ever eaten something that I actually killed. Well, OK, there were a few fish that I caught because they happened to be worse at the sport of fishing than I was. But other than that I've been a sort of glorified scavenger, feasting upon food grown, gathered and processed by hands other than my own.

And I can't help but wonder if there isn't something cosmically wrong with this. I mean, isn't this contrary to the laws of nature or at the very least, the Law of the Jungle? Out there in the wild a creature kills and eats until he is himself killed and eaten or stuffed and displayed in a superior creature's den or living room. But in the "civilized" world in which we live, most of us have others do our killing for us. We prefer not to think about how the killing is done. In fact, we rarely think about the killing at all. We just want those steaks or chops neatly wrapped in cellophane and ready to be grilled whenever we're ready to eat.

The same could be said of many other aspects of contemporary living. Take education, for example. For centuries parents took care of the education of their children themselves. This worked pretty well if your father's name was Windsor, Aristotle, Caesar or Pharaoh. But for the vast majority, it had a way of perpetuating educational inadequacies from generation to generation. Consider the rate at which learning has accelerated in the years since society has turned much of the educational process over to caring professionals. These dedicated men and women do most of our teaching for us, and society is for the most part better off as a result.

The problem, in my view, comes when we treat public education like that piece of meat. We can't completely abdicate the responsibility for educating our children like we've abdicated the responsibility for processing the food that we eat. As parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles and neighbors, we need to be involved in the educational process. We need to make sure that our students are at school on time and in a good frame of mind to have an exhilarating educational experience. We need to oversee homework meticulously and support teachers' efforts to teach proper classroom behavior and discipline. Within the walls of our homes we need to cultivate a culture that cherishes learning, values education and venerates teachers.

If we don't do our part in the educational process we run the risk of diminishing real-world possibilities for our children. In a way, we'll be turning them into educational Komodo Dragons, forcing them to scavenge bits of information wherever they may find it without regard to its intellectual value or veracity.

And if you have channel-hopped the Discovery Channel, you know that's not something you EVER want to see.

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--- © Joseph Walker


Look for Joe's book, "How Can You Mend a Broken Spleen? Home Remedies for an Ailing World." It is available on-line through