Readers write about declining food access and how teachers should prep students for tests.
Population growth will outpace food production
Regarding the April 18 article, "How to ease squeeze on food access": With clear evidence before us, I find it unsettling that an article on food scarcity has only a single passing reference to population – one that implies that continuing population growth is something we have to cater to rather than challenge. With diminishing freshwater supplies, decreasing arable land, and the rapidly approaching peak of oil production, assuming that we will be able to "produce a lot more food" for an ever-growing population is a flight of fancy.
The article also erroneously claims that humanity has historically found answers to all challenges of meeting increased food demand. History shows otherwise. Whether it was the Easter Islanders in the South Pacific who ended up resorting to cannibalism, the Mayans of Central America who "disappeared" when they outgrew their food resources, the fall of the Romans in Europe that led to the Dark Ages, or the Sumerians in the Middle East where salinization reduced food yields, mankind in each case was only able to survive because resources still existed in areas beyond one population's control. However, when our contemporary global civilization similarly falls, we will have no viable fallback position, no new territory with new resources into which we could expand. We shall have eaten ourselves out of house and home.
Thoughts on 'teaching to the test'
Regarding Walt Gardner's April 17 Opinion piece, "Good teachers teach to the test": I understand Mr. Gardner's logic; however, I caution against it. For starters, Gardner assumes that the test is worthy of teaching to. Many of these state-mandated tests are solely multiple-choice questions. Assuming for the moment that the content of the test is good, are we to assume that our students should spend large amounts of time "practicing" multiple-choice questions in similar ways that a track coach would have his or her team practice sprints?