Everyone’s Opinion Matters

Sarah Bowman

Sarah Bowman, former chain assembly worker at Walco, Elmira (1993-1999)

Opinions on what? Does a New York City-raised Harvard Law School graduate (who has been in school since the age of five and focused on a career since his or her teens, taking lucrative summer jobs to gain experience and a foot-in-the-door) know how to juggle things on a busy working farm so as to eek a profit in an unpredictable economical climate and adverse weather conditions? Then there’s the farmers, whose ancestors have been farmers for centuries. Some of whom have not finished elementary school but they can tell at a glance if a head of cattle is sick or if those are rain clouds on the horizon, or if the soil is right for planting. Who—the educated person or the Farmers Union—is most likely to express valuable opinions regarding the best methods for raising cattle for profit?

We can change the credentials to something else such as computer scientist or business person, but keep the rest of the personal background the same. Again, do you think the educated person is in a better position to express opinions on a topic he/she has no experience or expertise in than the uneducated person whose entire life has been spent in the field? I think we are talking about two different types of education. For some reason, society tends to value formal academic education over hands-on lived experience, allowing people in ivory towers to “tell the poor farmer” how to improve his/her lot.

But it is possible to combine the two. There are universities that operate experimental farms where they study better methods of raising animals and crops, of maintaining soil fertility and animal husbandry, etc. I think it is important for farmers, and other uneducated people, to realize the value of input these learned people can add to their ancestral knowledge. There must be an environment of trust and respect between the two classes: the educated elite and the grubby uneducated farmer (or fisherman or miner, etc.) who nevertheless loves his/her work.

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