Utne #4

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Utne Article #4 entitled Get Down and Dirty - "Our squeaky clean culture is making us sick." by Minna Morse.

The article by Minna Morse is a debateful article between whether or not all of the antibacterial soaps, cleaners, and products that are out there today, are actually a help or a hinderance to our society. Garry Hamilton explains in the British Journal New Scientist, "today's squeaky clean world could be making us ill."(p.14) Many more scientists are also starting to believe that our "growing separation from dirt and germs" may be behind some of the illnesses and diseases that many are aquiring today.

A new theory - dubbed the hygiene hypothesis - supports the ideas that ever since birth, our bodies are bombarded with dirt and germs, which our immune system needs, to develop properly. By exposing our bodies to dirt and grime, we are helping our immune system to fight off certain diseases, like asthma.

The article goes on to talk about this hypothesis, and other theories, and gets into discussing how our immune or Th cells respond in our bodies when bombarded with bacteria and germs.

In the end, the article concludes by saying, that possibly in the future, we will be sending our children out to make mud pies as a preventitive medicine against bacteria, germs and diseases.

I enjoyed this article very much because I've always wondered which was better - total cleanliness and washing after touching things and getting dirty - or - not worrying so much about having a little dirt on our hands. I, personally, was never hasseled too much as a young child to wash all the time, or to brush my teeth after every meal. So I'm glad to see that this article is supporting the fact that being a little dirty might not be such a bad thing after all. However, don't get my opinion of washing, or this articles views, confused with washing daily, because that IS very important.

-- Anonymous, June 11, 1999


An elementary classroom has germs in abundance: shared books and papers, dirty desktops, dirt blown in through open windows, coughing, sneezing, chalk dust, etc. So all this helps us develop a good immune system...well, I'll be darned! Seriously, I don't see anything remotely close to "squeaky clean" where I exist, do you? I do wish there was a way to stop the viruses that seem to travel from child to child in the classroom, especially the ones that keep a child absent for days. Thanks for the information - no longer will I let the dust and dirt irritate me, I'll just say that I'm helping the children develop their immune systems! Sondra Dolentz

-- Anonymous, June 15, 1999

Good summary of a very good article about the value of the natural world, how humans grow, and what appears to be harmful might very well be healthful. I appreciated your descriptive comments regarding cleanliness and the value of a little dirt.

I do believe our classrooms are a contagion field, but actually might be a source of building up immunities. Possibly our school systems are constructed on an educators' need to cover a certain amount of information in a state mandated period of time, instead of how the body might naturally need to be absent a goodly number of days in order to learn how to be healthy. Are our school systems' need to keep children in school, then, contributing to their unhealthy growth and development, and, perhaps, creating an unwarranted anxiety? Should the schools develop day care for sick children, etc.?

Let's keep thinking of what could happen with the information presented to us in an article and try to take it one or two steps further. Let's look at the implications on children, teachers, parents and perhaps our societal's emphasis on cleanliness. Indeed, cleanliness might be Corporate America looking for only a profit! Indeed, school lunches might serve a side orde of mud, or provide a stick from the forest to spread the peanut butter. I can see it now... "OK, children, there is no gum chewing allowed in class, but if you want to such on some rocks, please bring enough to share with your classmates."

-- Anonymous, June 21, 1999

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