|Exploding the Hunger Myths - High School Curriculum (FF, 1987, 173 p.)|
Hunger is a daily reality for over 500 million people (some sources say as high as 1 billion). Worldwide over 20 million people, mostly children, will die during the next year from starvation or hunger-related diseases. Millions of others will suffer permanent physical and mental damage as a result of hunger.
The image most North Americans have of hunger - famine induced by drought or other natural disasters - has little to do with the day-to-day experiences of most of the world's hungry people. Food is there for those who can pay. In fact, as hunger deepens in many countries, food production per person is increasing.
Even in the United States, while farmers reap record harvests and some economists laud a national economic recovery, hunger is on the rise. In some U.S. inner cities, infant mortality rates (a prime measure of nutritional well-being) rival the rates in many less developed countries.
As world citizens, students need to understand the true causes of hunger and develop an ability to critically assess the many misconceptions about hunger. That is why, as a high school biology teacher developing a three-week unit on food and nutrition, I felt compelled to devote a portion of the unit to a discussion of the underlying causes of hunger.
Initially, I began lecturing to students on the Myths of Hunger described in the book World Hunger: Ten Myths, by Frances Moore Lappé and Joseph Collins. I soon realized that my students became much more motivated when I stopped lecturing and allowed them to delve on their own into the issues raised by that book. During the following year, the hunger unit began to develop into a group learning effort and as a result became more meaningful and memorable to my students.
This curriculum grew out of that experience. It encourages students to discover some of the causes of and misconceptions about hunger by independently investigating several common assumptions:
· There's just not enough
· There are too many mouths to feed.
· Technology will solve the problem of hunger.
· People in poor countries have lisle in common with people in rich countries.
· More foreign aid will help the hungry.
· Hungry and poor people are too ignorant and passive to free themselves from hunger.
· One person's efforts cannot make any difference.
The methods used for investigating these assumptions vary widely. In some cases, students will be using statistics to make inferences about food and population. At other times, students will read and discuss personal anecdotes or engage in simulation games and role plays.
Many students sense that the world is in need of change but feel incapable of working to bring that change about. The institutions of our society often instill a passive attitude - changing things should be left up to the politicians and the experts.
It is no wonder that apathy and cynicism dominate many students" world views. The young person becomes an agent of change only in those very personal matters over which he or she feels some control. Early training in disengagement from the larger world stays with students through adulthood and prevents the political participation that a real democracy requires.
This curriculum emphasizes activism and hope not guilt, apathy, or despair. It counters hopelessness by showing that even small changes can have an impact. It introduces students to the idea that human activities, not acts of nature, are both the root cause and the potential solution to hunger.
It is my hope that these teaching materials will be used to foster a new commitment among students to participate in the changes needed to end the injustice of hunger.