No matter what time period or topic you focus on, when you’re a student in a history class, the goal isn't simply be to memorize important names and dates. The study of history is the study of how different cultures, nations, technologies, and people influenced one another and changed the course of human development.
For example, children in the United States often learn about the Industrial Revolution and how it shaped the world in which they live today. If they can come to appreciate the effects that major technological developments of the past have had on their present-day lives, they can perhaps see how current events will influence the future.
That’s why it seems that the history of agriculture ought to be a subject students learn more about in their early schooling.
How Agriculture Is Currently Taught
True, many children across the world are taught how the first human civilizations made the shift from a hunter-gather style society to a more farming-centric, agrarian one. There is definitely some degree of attention paid to agriculture’s role in history.
The problem is that school curricula tend to depict agriculture’s role in human society as one that was far more significant in the distant past. As a result, children may think of agricultural innovators as consisting exclusively of ancestors who lived a very, very long time ago, and who have no direct impact on their lives today.
Of course, it’s entirely valid to approach this subject from the perspective of modern humans looking back at how societies developed from hunter-gatherers to the agrarian societies most people live in today. However, agriculture didn’t merely provide food for humans to consume. Yes, that may have been - and may always be - its primary function, but focusing exclusively on this element of its effect on society means ignoring the bigger picture.
Additional Impacts of Agriculture on Society
Agriculture did keep humans well-fed. However, agriculture also made it possible for ancient tribes to settle down permanently in one geographic area. This allowed people to differentiate their roles within a culture.
The stability afforded to societies by farming expanded opportunities for people to develop their artistic talents. It also led to the establishment and enforcement of laws, as well as the development of cohesive religious and philosophical beliefs. So many elements of human society that we may take for granted, from literature to spirituality, would never have existed in their current forms without the development of farming.
So, yes, it is fair for schools to discuss agriculture in terms of its impact on society’s historical development. However, educators shouldn’t limit the discussion to these terms. If the educational emphasis is on the development of agriculture as a major turning point in the history of humankind, that’s all children well ever think of it as: history.
Agriculture’s Impact on Contemporary Society
The reality, though, is that agriculture continues to be a major force in all of human society. It still provides the vast majority of the food that people eat. It also has a tremendous impact on the economic health of a given nation.
Additionally, farming has led to the development and adoption of many new technologies, from unmanned drones to driverless tractors to the development and use of agrochemicals, all of which boost the industry’s overall efficiency with the result that more people are fed. Not only that, but major cultural shifts are still occurring as countries and peoples respond to the need for more food, for more of what agriculture provides.
Changing How the History of Agriculture Is Taught
In the agrochemical industry, as in so many other fields, leaders are always looking for bright young people to seek employment and contribute their talent and insights. Unfortunately, if students are taught to think of agriculture in limited terms - the transition to agrarian societies as ancient history, farming as technologically stagnant, agrochemical companies as the domain of business school graduates - then those who might otherwise find a reason to enter the field might not do so. Then they would lose out on the opportunity to not only make the world a better place, but also play a fundamental role in the shaping of history.
Because of the need for fresh talent and constant innovation within the industry, it is important that schools across the world reassess how they approach this topic. Agriculture must be taught in such a way that students better understand how this vital industry directly affects them right here and right now.
When this shift happens, students with a deep curiosity and a well-cultivated social conscience may realize that agriculture is the industry that will offer them the opportunity to do their most important work.