by Martha Rosenberg Page 1 of 2 page(s)
Chicago, IL 1 | 2
David Warwak looks like Eric Schlosser the author of Fast Food Nation. He sounds like Eric Schlosser. Unfortunately, instead of a best seller, Warwak's efforts to wake young people up to the politics of eating have earned him a pink slip at the Chicago area middle school where he has taught art for almost eight years
This week District 3 school board members voted, 7-0 to dismiss Warwak from his position at Fox River Grove Middle School for "turning his classroom into a forum on veganism" and asking students to keep it a secret.
Problems started last spring when Warwak bought a quantity of yellow marshmallow Peeps, a candy shaped like a baby chick, and distributed them to the students and faculty telling them to, "take their 'animal friend' home and protect it," Warwak recounts in an interview.
Both students and faculty "bonded" with their Peep, honoring the custody they'd been given, bringing it back to school as told and--importantly--not biting its head off.
But then the Peeps were confiscated to become trophies on the wall, caged animals in the zoo, roadkill in a truck and finally lunch between two slices of bread.
Suddenly it wasn't funny anymore.
"People 'got' the part about protecting the Peep and not eating it even though it would taste good. They even had the Peeps 'talking' to them. But when the lesson enlarged to how we treat real, not make believe, animals they got angry. They didn't see it coming."
School administrators who had played along said they felt "hoodwinked" and ordered the Peep installations taken down.
Teaching in both Fox River Grove elementary and middle schools, Warwak has watched many of these kids grow up and noted a disturbing trend.
"Some boys were amusing themselves impaling frogs they found at the river with knives and watching them squirm in pain," he says. "They brought a video of a cat being decapitated to school and thought it was funny."
Warwak talked to school counselors who did nothing.
Realizing the kids' removal from animal pain was not different from his own as a fisherman before he turned vegan or anyone consuming meat and indifferent to its animal price, Warwak became an activist.
He asked the cafeteria manager to remove pro milk posters--45,000 public middle and high schools in the US and 60,000 public elementary schools display the government-sanctioned milk huckstering despite a Federal Trade Commission ruling against them this year-- and gave him a copy of John Robbins' "Food Revolution."
Then he bought copies of "Food Revolution" for all the students and told them to look up factory farming on the Internet.
Then he heard from the principal, Tim Mahaffy.
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Martha Rosenberg is staff cartoonist for the Evanston Roundtable.