apples and trees

the saying goes, “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” – an idiom evoking an understanding between the user and interpreter of the phrase. visuals always help me, so i imagined the visual that emerges when one mentally illustrates this idiom. there is a tree, an apple tree presumably; the tree flowers, and then grows fruit – some hanging lower to the ground than others; apple trees bear fruit in the fall, some of which are picked by eager visitors to apple orchards with their intentions explicit and children in tow. i was such a visitor on several occasions, when my parents took me to an orchard near my childhood home. it was on one of these trips when, at the age of 6 or 7, i first learned the word “bushel” as we picked and purchased several bushels of apples… even if we assume that somewhere, where trees are not picked clean, the occasional apple falls…is buried by the earth…grows roots and sprouts a new tree, the apple and the subsequent tree, though not far in distance, may be quite far in similarity from the tree of origin given climate changes, precipitation oddities, disruptions in soil conditions, and a whole host of other external factors. in addition, these and other factors may impact the internal chemistry of the apple, the new tree and subsequent apple. physically, the tree may stand in the shadows of it’s seed bearer, but metaphorically it may be worlds apart.

at the end of a recent episode of “30 days,” in which morgan spurlock spent nearly a month in a minimum security jail, updates are given for some of the inmates who figure prominently in the episode. both men are remanded within weeks of their release. these updates could be seen to underscore the musings spurlock shares via his video diary about the need for rehabilitative programs and the indelible effects of punishment-oriented practices; or the data given could lead the viewer to a deepened conviction about arrests and incarceration. when the lives of court-involved youth are on the line – and, when corrections education programs stand as an intervening space of second chances and new educational and life possibilities– the idiom must be questioned, for so much of juvenile justice research and related policy is grounded in statistical probability regarding arrest and incarceration. patterns can be made to exist when questions remain stagnant and methodology staid. thus, a new challenge arises: how do we recognize the relationships between apples and trees, without constraining or overextending their reach; and how do we make room for crabapples and pluots?

*image taken from freakonomics cover

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