Preparing the Fields
I grew up in a family of farmers. This time of year we prepared the fields for new planting and pruned back the old growth on trees and vines to assure strong healthy growth.
One practice always interesting to me was that of grafting, especially pecan trees. My uncle was astute in his practice to maintain a high standard of pecan crop from his trees. Religiously, he would seek out the best trees and with wax and a sharp knife, he proceeded to enhance his trees with strong additions from desired root stock he deemed important to add to the quality of his orchard.
A cutting would be taken from a tree with the desired traits and placed into a deep cut left where a limb had been removed from the original stock. This area would then be covered with wax as protection against disease or insects that could threaten the new union from becoming the best of both trees.
As I look out of my kitchen window and see a grove of strong pecan trees that yield bumper crops of high quality harvest each year, it reminds me that the grafting procedure and an Episcopal education embrace the same principles.
A June 2017 article in the Journal of the National Association of Episcopal Schools stated that dialogue, not monologue, fosters learning. The process of education involves give and take, concession and compromise, argument and debate: all products of the rich interchange which takes place when people of differing backgrounds and varied points of view come together and honor one another. Accordingly, Episcopal schools seek to thoughtfully balance their core identity as Christian institutions with an open and genuine hospitality that welcomes many voices and perspectives.
The article also states, “today’s Episcopal schools are populated by a rich variety of human beings from increasingly diverse dimensions of identity and religious, cultural, and economic backgrounds. Episcopal schools are places that affirm these differences as sources of strength that build up common life, deepen our common humanity, and enhance the intellectual, social, spiritual, and moral development all students.”
Education, especially in Episcopal school communities, promotes values of justice, equity, service, civil discourse, and moral courage grafting onto the individuality each student brings into our classrooms – all of which enhances their ideals, visions and goals for the future.
Dr. David Creech, SFA professor emeritus of agriculture, explained in a recent Lufkin Daily News article that “budding and grafting is an ancient practice that is part science, part art and always fun. We bud and graft when cuttings won’t root or they root and grow off too slowly. We also bud and graft to take advantage of a superior rootstock – one that dwarfs the top or provides disease or insect resistance, or allows a plant to grow in a soil that is generally not suitable.”
Navigating the world today is not an easy task and the future is certain to be filled with many unimaginable choices and decisions for this generation of children. The best practices that should occur in classrooms are those that equip students to become thinkers, problem solvers and innovators.
Students also must be empowered to recognize the importance of the interchange and balance found in staying true to their identity yet open to recognizing how lives and circumstances might be improved by embracing new ideas and challenges. A better outcome because the best of all parties involved came together with the intentional purpose for an improved product.
The best of strong root stocks combined with intentional grafting for specific traits can make a difference in an orchard or vineyard.
In our classrooms, students grafting collective ideas and experiences onto already strong individual values and morals can lead to achievement beyond what we can imagine as they move into the future as strong leaders who can yield ideas and actions that represent the best in all of us. That is how we assure that the highest level of our knowledge and values become the expected in the world of tomorrow. No sharp knives or wax necessary.