Volume XLV No. 3
July 2003

I’m Glad They Found Nemo, but Fish are Food!
By Wm. Jay Jackman, Ph.D., CAE
NAAE Executive Director

Pixar and Disney’s latest release, Finding Nemo, has received rave reviews and is an unqualified box office success. If you’ve not yet experienced this fun simmer flick, you should. It’s great entertainment and incredible animation. It’s also food for thought for those of us in agricultural education.

As educators, we know all too well that many people in our society have little to no understanding of the food and fiber system that sustains us all. In fact, one of the primary goals in the Strategic Plan of Agricultural Education addresses this need:

Goal 3
All students are conversationally literate in agriculture, food, fiber and natural resources systems.

Many in agricultural education attempt to address the issue by hosting children’s ranchlands or other activities intended to engage today’s youngsters in discovering that hamburgers originate, not at McDonald’s, but at Old MacDonald’s Farm. Which brings us back to Nemo.

As this hapless little fish’s father, Marlin, and his intrepid friend, Dory, make their way across the wide-open ocean to rescue Nemo, they are confronted by three sharks that just happen to be in a self-help group, trying to transform themselves into vegetarians. A parody of a self-help meeting ensues, wherein the sharks repeat their mantra, “Fish aren’t food, they are our friends.” Despite an accident that sends one of the sharks into a feeding frenzy, Dory and Marlin escape with their lives and continue on their quest to find Nemo.

One of the Pixar animation team’s great strengths is its ability to humanize animals and inanimate objects alike (think Buzz and Woody from “Toy Story,” or Flick in “A Bug’s Life”). Humanizing animals is nothing new in animation—the technique is at least as old as Bambi. However, when Bambi was released, our society had a much better understanding of the food system. Today’s children, on average, are much further removed from the food and fiber system, and could well walk out of the theater thinking that fish really aren’t supposed to be food. Who would want to eat a cute little Nemo?

When you host a children’s barnyard or petting zoo, it is easy for the children to come away thinking about the cute little animals and how it might be great to have a pet piglet. However, we owe it to ourselves and our industry to make sure the youngsters walk away knowing that the cute little piglet will one day be served up as ham and bacon. Agricultural literacy needs to be woven in to these activities so we don’t accidentally communicate the wrong messages.

Sending mixed messages is easy to do, and sometimes difficult to guard against. McDonald’s is one of the biggest message senders on the planet and, incidentally, they are in the midst of a marketing campaign featuring Nemo. Do you think they’ve taken the fish sandwich off the menu in honor of the “fish aren’t food, they are our friends” mantra? Perhaps next time you visit the Golden Arches, you should consider asking for “Nemo Sandwich.”

After leaving the theater where Andrew, my 9-year-old cousin, and I saw Finding Nemo, Andrew drew this masterpiece verifying, in spite of the sharks' message in the movie, that indeed Fish ARE Food!


Ideas Unlimited

July 2003 NAAE Board Meeting

Beginning Teachers -- You Survived

Teacher Spotlight

LEAP Toward Education

New ACTE Ag Ed Division VP

Washington Beat

Dates and Events

Regional Updates

Upper Division Scholarship Winners

Teacher Mentor Award

New Freshman Scholarship Winners

2003 Convention Highlights

New Organizational Members

Exec. Dir. Receives CAE Designation

2003 NAAE Convention Schedule

2003 NAAE Convention Registration

NAAE Relocation to Lexington, KY