There are some big changes afoot in our lives, and though I'm going to keep them under my hat for the moment, I do want to pull up a question from the new matron in the picture for closer scrutiny.
Before the big dinner and discussion a few weeks ago, she asked me what my experience in gardening/orchards was. I gave a fairly stock answer for someone of my experience level that went something like this - "well I have a degree in biology from the University of Florida, with a minor in chemistry, my great-great-grandfather was a fantastic gardener/orchardman, my great-grandfather was a fantastic gardener/orchardman, my grandfather is a fantastic gardener/orchardman, my father is a fantastic gardener/orchardman - I just grew up immersed in big, productive gardens. My professional experience is in watershed ecology, botany, and soil science, and I practically live outside in my gardens and orchards full time, and have for several years. (And then cheekily,) I do go inside now and then to sleep!" OK, and to blog eight times a year.
But why should I list my "official" credentials first, when I have lived in and participated with a garden for most of my 42 years (how is four years better than four decades?), and surely had some subconscious genetic leanings, not to mention extensive nurturing, in that direction passed to me through generations of garden-loving forebears. Even in my wayward 20s and ladder-climbing early 30s, whenever I rented a new place my greatest affinity was for the raspberry thicket at the back edge of the yard, or the hops growing up to the second story bedroom window, or the little sunny patch in the side yard deep in the student ghetto at UF where I could grow a few tomatoes. Or at least try to.
Why do we put so much emphasis on a few years of intense (but rarely practical) study? In fact, as soon as one reaches a certain level of practicality the academic community tends to redefine that more as "technical" school. Obviously implying a lesser entity.
Nah, the years of experimentation (and what decent gardener doesn't experiment constantly?), the thrilling successes - the spinach leaves bigger than my hands!, and probably most importantly, the failures, mean so much more than the alphabet soup we sometimes like to dangle behind our signatures. At least they do to me. And I think they should more generally.
There is merit in the letters, though, I think. In a way it's a concise means of conveying that you care enough about a subject to have taken the time (and probably the debt) to spend 4 years of formally-sanctioned (and expensive!) study to further your chosen path. But honestly, I've learned at least an order of magnitude more about my chosen path SINCE college than I did in it. And it didn't require the psychological and not-insignificant social pressure of student loan debt either. Debt that may not ever get repaid. As a currently-popular millennial musician says it, "between student loans and treehouse homes, we all would take the latter." Or was that ladder?
But even that concise packaging really only works because we live in a culture that identifies closely with credentials, so sometimes credentials feel necessary. I for one would love to see a general return to apprenticeship systems, slowly wedging their way into the space currently (and fairly securely) held by banks and universities.
How many psych majors with 50k in student loan debt does the country really need? At what point do the rest of us start discouraging young people from wasting their time on such things? At what point do we get tired of education (and medicine, and...) costing as much as it does at least partly because of the number of administrators and regulators, the number of layers of people on the dole, requiring themselves to be paid before the letters of recognition can be passed on. It's like we've had to make jobs up (and pay for them all!) to fit everybody into a space that just doesn't require them. Because, well, what else are we going to do with all these people in a country selling its jobs abroad as fast as it can?
Energy descent will eventually make all that look like the folly that it is, but it will take a while. Nobody's going to offer up their job willingly on the altar of efficiency, nor take a new, more practical one in the name of resilience. But perhaps we should consider redirecting some of our cultural energy toward prying the death-grip of the banks and universities from the throat of the overly-credentialed and under-employed populace! Just thinking out loud here.
Maybe it's time to realign ourselves with practicality, and give some of the certification outfits the boot to the backside they so richly deserve.
Meanwhile, here's something practical for another spring immersed in severe colony collapse disorder among our honeybees, an ongoing threat no doubt presided over by plenty of knuckleheads dangling alphabet soup behind their names. (Alphabet soup that probably aligns better with doctrine than critical thought.)
Our first top bar honeybee hive!
And a darling little future beekeeper (my daughter Ella) modeling the new bee gear. Bees in two weeks. Can't wait!
Happy Spring everyone.