A Hands-On New Year


The next decade will bring further changes in the way we think about food, work, and education.


Lead photo:

Bee boxes at the Earth Works community garden in Detroit.

I anticipate that in the second decade of the 21st century we will deepen and broaden the visionary advances that became visible in the first decade.

In 2011 it will become clearer to more millions that our good health depends on our making the good food revolution. Instead of relying on an industrialized food system that keeps us ignorant and powerless about what we take into our bodies, we will be producing most of our food locally, not only growing vegetables on neighboring lots, rooftops, and balconies but raising chickens in backyard coops and fish in home and other local aquariums.

This is not just a question of physical health.

As Wendell Berry wrote in Home Economics years ago:

“We are each called to be an artist, to learn to give love to the work of our hands. It is one of the last places where the maker … is responsible, from start to finish, for the thing made. This certainly is a spiritual value, but it is not for that reason an impractical or uneconomic one. In fact, from the exercise of this responsibility, this giving of love to the work of the hands, the farmer, the farm, the consumer, and the nation all stand to gain in the most practical ways: They gain the means of life, the goodness of food, and the longevity and dependability of the sources of food, both natural and cultural. The proper answer to the spiritual calling becomes, in turn, the proper fulfillment of physical need.”

In the second decade of the 21st century, I anticipate that our work will increasingly take the form of crafts. As robots replaced human beings on the production line in the 20th century, we began to realize that, while the industrial age produced material abundance, it was really a digression in the continuing evolution of the human race. The labor which it required, be our payment high or low, was so fragmenting and inhuman that it could be done by robots.

In the next decade I anticipate that in view of the obvious failures of No Child Left behind and Race to the Top, the continuing schools crisis will be resolved by our creating community-and-place-based schools.

By making the tackling and solving of community problems a normal and natural part of the school curriculum from K-12, our schools will empower children and young people, showing our respect for them as fellow citizens.

In Hampton, Virginia, young people have advisory roles in all aspects of c ity government.

In the next decade we will finally realize that the best way to interest children and young people in their own education is by community involvement and not by tests, threats, and other punitive measures.

Moreover, by calling on the ingenuity and creativity of young people rather than on their ability to regurgitate correct answers, we will reduce the huge numbers resorting to drugs to relieve boredom and frustration and dropping out of schools (voting with their feet) which often leads to incarceration.

For this profound transformation in our schools. we are going to need the cooperation and participation of people in many different walks of life.

Grace Lee BoggsGrace Lee Boggs has been an activist for more than 60 years and is the author of the autobiography Living for Change.