The Dismal Taste of High-Yield Corporate School: Shakespearian Tragedy

29 05 2010

What’s in a name? Substitute “kid” for “tomato” and “school” for “plant” — you get the idea. Substitute individual creativity for “sugar” and “flavor” and other nutrients given short shrift by factory farm schooling in service of corporate-backed political controls.

Sacrificing Flavor

The pressure for high-yield plants is responsible for the dismal taste of the supermarket tomato. Harry Klee, a plant biologist at the University of Florida in Gainesville, says it’s a simple matter of economics.

. . .”The grower is paid for size and yield — and flavor is irrelevant, unfortunately,” Klee says.

In fact, the yield is so great for some tomato varieties that the plant can’t keep up. Because the plants have been bred to produce so many fruits, they can’t produce enough sugars and other nutrients.

“And so what happens is you start to dilute out all of the good flavor compounds, and you get a fruit that you bite into it and it largely tastes like water,” Klee says.
“Because that’s mostly what it is.”

That which we still call a tomato wouldn’t smell or taste as sweet after we’ve diluted its flavors and aromas, dumbed it down and bred out all its delights. That which we still call an education suffers more yet from its name . . .

I don’t care for tomatoes myself but I love the fruit of another kind of vine. That’s another good play on the same school tragedy:

I heard filmmaker Jonathan Nossiter interviewed on NPR this morning about his “Mondovino” — he deplored the global marketing and contests/competitions that together have created wine’s disturbingly standardized taste today — a regression to some mean that is childish, simplistic, superficial, undemanding and robotic.

He believes we’re infantalizing and institutionalizing a few thousand years of individuality and complex nuance, apparently for the
sake of control, predictability and winning contest points.

He might as well have been talking about what school has done to education.

A months-old NY Times feature described Nossiter’s film as an obsession to be true to his own “real love of wine” even if it angered other “wine-lovers” which it does seem to have done (watch for more fallout from the 10-part TV serialization to come!)

From the movie’s box:
“Wine has been a symbol of Western civilization for thousands of years. Never has the fight for its soul been as desperate. Never has there been so much money -and pride- at stake.
But the battle lines are not what you’d expect: local versus multinational, simple peasants versus powerful captains of industry. In the world of wine, it is never the usual suspects.”

But on the upside of our “wine is to children” analogy, there was this travel story quote:

“On our trip, we quickly learned that kids and wine have one thing in common:
they need to breathe in the open air. . .”

. . .And for another view, film critic John Powers reviews the film “Mondovino” as a way to talk about the tough but realistic trade-offs we face when we value both diversity AND affordable access for the masses, both quality and quantity, both the quirky local and the successfully flattened globe, both the individual and the institution.



2 responses

29 05 2010
Crimson Wife

So homeschoolers are the vine-ripened heirloom tomatoes of the world? Love the analogy!

29 05 2010

I see I’m preaching to the right farmers . . .

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