Monday, December 22, 2008

Sacred concepts maligned

By Dr. T. Colin Campbell PhD.

Certain ideas, in my mind, are sacred. One of these is honesty. Another is freedom of speech, at least here in the United States. And a third is the right to a good education, especially for young people.

I do not claim to know all the details surrounding Dave Warwak's dismissal from his school post in northern Illinois. But I do not need to know everything because these three sacred concepts were being maligned. When I initially heard of his case and after checking the story on the Internet and talking with him on the phone, I could not have cared less how complete my information was. Here was a tenured teacher informing children, through his art curriculum, of some ideas that they were entitled to think about. Being an educator for decades myself and being the father of five grown children and the grandfather of five teenage grandchildren, I know something about the importance of education.

I learned of nothing in these early conversations with Dave and in my Internet search that could possibly change my initial impressions. Whatever I did not know, I may never know, but I did know that I was witnessing the elements of an unacceptable injustice. It was not something that was merely curious.

I personally felt offended, not only for Dave but also for his students and, in a larger sense, for the American public who are too often entrapped in ignorance. How dare a school administrator and a school board take the extraordinary action—tantamount to a near-crime in my book—of dismissing a tenured teacher for sharing with his students his thoughts on the origins of violence and his related thoughts on the association of certain foods with poor health? Isn't a teacher's sharing of new ideas what education is all about? If I had any further reservations about the veracity of this story, they were largely dispelled by Dave's willingness, indeed courage, to openly challenge his dismissal. Any unmentioned baggage could be exposed in such a setting.

With this information in mind, I quickly caught a flight to Chicago's O'Hare airport then drove north for an hour to testify in his hearing before a hearing officer, the school superintendent and the attorneys for the school board. I was not disappointed. I was asked to give under oath my views on the truthfulness of the posters on dairy that were displayed in the school building and that touted the alleged health benefits of milk for children.

I have spent a half century doing experimental research with many students and other colleagues on diet and health, mostly at Cornell University, and along the way I spent about 20 years as a member or advisor to expert panels, helping to develop national food and health policy. More recently, I published with my son, Tom, a national best selling book, The China Study. Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss and Long-Term Health, which documents much of my career and the evidence that brought me to my present views.

I was asked my opinions on the reliability of the poster information which Dave had challenged and which drew the ire of the school authorities that led to his dismissal. As far as I could tell from these hearings, I agreed with Dave's assessments. Studies now show an impressive relationship of dairy consumption with prostate cancer, teenage acne, breast cancer, high blood cholesterol and its companion lesions that lead to heart disease, and a significant number of allergies, some of which are quite serious. In my own laboratory, we extensively studied in laboratory experiments the ability of cow's milk protein, when fed in excess of protein recommendations (almost all Americans consume protein in excess), to promote cancer growth.

I know that these findings, for many people, are difficult to comprehend and to accept but they are published in top-flight and peer-reviewed science journals. These findings also were initially difficult for me to accept as well, given my personal background of growing up on a dairy farm milking cows, then entering my research career with a bias in favor of promoting dairy. But along the way the evidence against the long-time health claims by the dairy industry became too overwhelming to ignore. Also, along the way, both in the laboratory and in the policy boardrooms, I came to learn the thoroughness with which the dairy industry has indoctrinated all of us, largely in school hallway posters like those that Dave Warwak had challenged.

In a way, I felt a certain sadness with this episode for I was seeing, once again, how otherwise good people have become so thoroughly indoctrinated for so long in the health virtues of milk, thus leading them to equate Dave's views as heresy, perhaps also believing that he was doing something really evil. Let there be no mistake, the scientific evidence now questioning the alleged health value of milk has become substantial and is worthy of public dissemination, especially to children.

Although I did not directly testify to Dave's interest in teaching, through art, his ideas on non-violence, I also believe that it is well past time that schoolchildren also be informed of this very important consideration as well. As I write this, I am still so disbelieving that this event ever occurred. When are we going to come to our senses?

I repeat: I do not know the full details of this unfortunate event in Dave's life. But I know enough for now. Dave Warwak on this basis of my background information and my witnessing the trial was teaching compassion and health, as he must. He also had the courage to be bold in expressing his opinions. His actions are not only a great lesson for young people, they also are the stuff that made this country great.

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1 comment:

  1. So sorry we live in a world where truth is compromised and reality is snuffed. However the future of your teaching career unfold - you did the courageous thing... you did the right thing -