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This Week in Freudenfreude: Now That's a Civics Lesson

We're going to start this item with a quiz. This is a list of state "things"; the first item in each list is the state fruit, the other two are things we selected that we think are pretty big clues as to the mystery state's identity:

  1. Vine Ripe Pink Tomato; fiddle (state musical instrument); diamond (state gem)
  2. Avocado; denim (state fabric); Bodie (state ghost town)
  3. Pear; Widmer Brothers Hefeweizen (state beer); Tabitha Moffatt Brown and Dr. John McLoughlin (state mother and father)
  4. Pumpkin; "The Old Man of the Mountain" (state song; one of 10); granite (state rock)
  5. Strawberry; gumbo (state cuisine); Natchitoches meat pie (state meat pie)
  6. Kalo/taro; Humuhumunukunukuapua'a (state fish); surfing (state sport)
  7. Apple; apple muffin (state muffin); yogurt (state snack)
  8. Cranberry; cheese (state dairy product); polka (state dance)
  9. Blackberry; Bourbon Festival of Bardstown (state bourbon festival); coal (state mineral)
  10. Blueberry; magnolia (state flower); Natchez silt loam (state soil)

Some of these are easier than others; the full list appears at the bottom of the page. For now, however, we will note that #10 is Mississippi, because that's the one that is relevant to this particular item.

See, until recently, Mississippi did not actually have a state fruit. That's not unique; although every state has adopted some state symbols, including some very unusual ones, there are at least a dozen states that have no state fruits (among them Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Pennsylvania). However, fourth-grade teacher Lisa Parenteau read a story about a group of students from Kansas who successfully persuaded their legislature to get the Sandhill plum named the Kansas state fruit. And she saw a teachable moment.

Parenteau brought the article she had read to her class at Mannsdale Upper Elementary School in Madison, MS, and they discussed whether or not Mississippi should also have a state fruit. The students thought that would be a swell idea, and so they got to work trying to figure out what Mississippi's state fruit should be. They learned that the state's most-produced fruit, by a wide margin, is the blueberry. And thus was born Project Blueberry.

The next step, of course, was to find a member of the legislature who was willing to introduce a resolution in the state House. Madison is in MS-SD-73, and the occupant of that seat, Jill Ford (R), was happy to help out. Her co-sponsors were Stacey Hobgood-Wilkes (R), who sounds like a character in a Dickens novel, and Otis Anthony (D), who doesn't. HB 1027 passed the state House 110-1 and the state Senate 52-0. This raises the obvious question: What was up with that one member who voted "nay"? They must be bankrolled by Big Peach.

Many of the students in Parenteau's class were present for the votes in the state legislature, and when Gov. Tate Reeves (R-MS) signed the bill into law. Speaking as teachers, there is no better approach to education than to learn by doing. And introducing young people to the political process, and letting them see how it works? That's a great first step towards creating informed, engaged citizens. So, kudos to Parenteau and her students. And have a good weekend, all! (Z)

The other states above are (1) Arkansas, (2) California, (3) Oregon, (4) New Hampshire, (5) Louisiana, (6) Hawaii, (7) New York, (8) Wisconsin, and (9) Kentucky.

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