World literacy toward ag vital, too (Editorial)

(Nov. 3, 2015) Literacy is traditionally understood as the ability to read and write.
But it has come to mean much more than that.
The term’s meaning, according to Wikipedia, has been expanded to include the ability to use language, numbers, images and other means to understand and use the dominant systems of a culture and to include skills to access knowledge through technology and ability to assess complex contexts.
In short, Wikipedia, says “literacy represents the lifelong, intellectual process of gaining meaning from a critical interpretation of written or printed text.” Now comes word from Tom Ackerman, vice president for education at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, that the World Future Council has presented Maryland with a silver 2015 Future Policy Award for becoming the first state “to require students to be environmentally literate as a high school graduation requirement.”
Other states, such as Kentucky and Utah. have since developed education plans based on Maryland’s Environmental Literacy Standards.
So what does that mean specifically? How do you measure a student’s environmental literacy?
CBF’s Ackerman sees it this way: “The most important battle lines in the effort to save the planet are not the Amazon Rainforest or the Arctic ice pack.
“Whether we as a species continue to survive and thrive on this planet will be determined by whether or not we can change the way that we live in the developed world to allow a healthy environment to sustain,” Ackerman said.
“The Chesapeake Bay Foundation and our partners across the state of Maryland are working to make sure that the next generation of leaders and citizens are environmentally literate — understanding the value of a healthy environment and that it is very possible for human prosperity and a healthy environment to coincide if we make the right choices.”
OK, but who on the faculties of the high schools across Maryland, is going to teach Environmental Literacy 101? What textbooks are available for the new course of study?
Give us an example of a homework assignment. And how is the environmental literacy of the members of the senior class going to be assessed? How do you fail Environmental Literacy 404? Remember, rhat diploma is “real world stuff.”
Fortunately, Maryland agriculture representatives fought hard to get agriculture a seat at the environmental literacy table. Hopefully more students will see farm-related experience as the best way to meet their requirement. And it’s encouraging that more students across the region are electing to participate in FFA seeing the value it brings in pursuing a science-based career.
But the public remains largely uninformed about how food goes from field to plate.
As a starter in the long-neglected effort to rid the culture of agricultural ignorance, Environmental Literacy 101 might include a chapter on livestock production to explain, for instance, that hamburger does not come from pigs.
This appeal: If we are going to require students to be environmentally literate to obtain that long-sought diploma, we should also make sure that, in the real world, if you are going to save the planet, you’re going to have to eat to save the human species itself.