The life expectancy of National Football League players might have as much to do with teaching art as the factory farming fired middle school teacher Dave Warwak is accused of teaching.
But it formed the backbone of Cornell University Professor Emeritus Dr. T. Colin Campbell's testimony at the Board of Education hearing into the middle school teacher's dismissal in Fox River Grove, IL, population 5,000, in April.
NFL players are only expected to live to 56 because "they are dying of cancer, heart disease, diabetes and diet related illnesses," testified Campbell in defense of Warwak's classroom charge that animal foods will shorten lives.
Campbell, Professor Emeritus of Nutritional Biochemistry, is author, with son Thomas M. Campbell II, of the 2005 nutrition bestseller, The China Study, which links premature death and many diseases to diet and was called the "Grand Prix of Epidemiology" by the New York Times.
After reading The China Study, the Kansas City Chiefs' Tony Gonzalez dropped animal products from his diet. testified Campbell, and "this past season he broke the all-time record for the most catches, the most touchdown passes and the most yards gained of any NFL tight end in the history of the National Football League."
The China Study also converted Minnesota Twins pitcher Pat Neshek to an animal free diet says a June ESPN report which also cites vegan diets of Detroit Lion Desmond Howard, Miami Dolphin Ricky Williams, former St. Louis Ram D'Marco Farr, Milwaukee Brewer Prince Fielder and Atlanta Hawk Salim Stoudamire.
Forty-five year old middle school art teacher Dave Warwak was dismissed last fall from the District 3 school system where he had taught for eight years for, "turning his classroom into a forum on veganism," abandoning the art curriculum and asking students to keep it a secret from their parents according to school board documents.
What began as a simple be-kind-to-animals project approved by administrators who even participated--marshmallow Easter "Peeps" were made into "pets" to be cared for--got out of hand when Warwak put the "pets" in cages, pots and pans and between slices of bread.
"The problem was when it turned into a PETA advertisement and it was against the school lunch program," testified Fox River Grove Middle School Principal Tim Mahaffy at the Illinois Board of Education's three day closed hearings into Warwak's dismissal conducted at the Fox River Grove City Hall in April.
Despite hearing officer Barry Simon's repeated admonishments that the case was not about whether veganism, "is right or wrong or good or bad," feeding children animal products was the 300 pound Peep in the room as Warwak, acting pro se, questioned Mahaffy.
Q: Would you say the school lunch goes against humane education?
A: I disagree. I don't see the connection.
Q: The humane education says be nice to all things; the school lunch says, well, not animals?
Robert E. Riley (counsel for District 3): Objection. Arguing with the witness.
Q: Does the school promote meat and dairy one-sided or do they allow other viewpoints on it?
A: The school is committed to following both the State and federal guidelines for serving school lunches.
Of course Fox River Grove Middle School is paid to be one-sided.
Like 45,000 other public middle and high schools in the US and 60,000 elementary schools, it only receives reimbursement from the National School Lunch Program when it pushes milk and life-size Milk Mustache and "Body By Milk" posters adorn lunchroom walls.
This is the program that served children downer dairy cows, at risk for mad cow disease, until the January recall of Hallmark beef, observes Warwak in a recent memoir about his termination, Peep Show For Children Only, found on lulu.com.
Yet the pro dairy message on the school posters--which feature sports figures and popular musicians and arrive unsolicited from the National Dairy Council--is misleading and harmful testified Dr. T. Colin Campbell on the basis of decades of his National Institutes of Health-funded research.
"The consumption of dairy, especially at the younger ages, is a problem," said Campbell which includes health consequences like higher risks of prostate, uterine, breast and endometrial cancers, osteoporosis and a "threefold higher risk of colon cancer."
The health promises about strong bones and healthy bodies on the posters are written by a USDA dietary committee, said Campbell, whose members were found by a court to have conflicts of interests after refusing a Freedom of Information request.
"Six of the eleven members of the committee including the chair had an association with the dairy industry," said Campbell. "And the chair himself had taken more money without telling the public about it than he was allowed under the law."
The animal rich diet the Fox River Grove's District 3 defends to the point of firing a tenured teacher might mean kids won't live longer than the sports heroes they admire, summarized Campbell.
Arbitrator Simon has yet to make a ruling about Warwak--or the posters.
Martha Rosenberg is a cartoonist for the Evanston Roundtable in Evanston, Illinois.