Caitlin Flanagan Plants a Stick of Dynamite in Alice Waters’ Garden


In the latest issue of the Atlantic, Caitlin Flanagan engages in another round of Alice Waters target practice, attacking the “dowager queen of the grown-locally movement” for her previously seemingly unassailable Edible Schoolyard program.

Flanagan, who previously was seen pitting stay-at-home moms against their working counterparts, writes that the Edible Schoolyard program, promoted by “an agglomeration of foodies and educational reformers who are propelled by a vacuous if well-meaning ideology” is “responsible for robbing an increasing number of American schoolchildren of hours they might other wise have spent reading important books or learning higher math.” Because the students in the underperforming public schools that use the Edible Schoolyard program are largely black and Latino, Flanagan charges that Waters is doing little but impressing her own “patronizing agenda” on the children, whose parents are already undoubtedly unfamiliar with the demands of manual labor.

Flanagan does allow that Waters isn’t entirely responsible, and also heaps blame on the California Department of Education, which has allowed the work camps gardens to “hijack the curricula of so many schools” by “bestowing field work and low expectations on a giant population of students who might become troublesome if they actually got an education.”

Flanagan uses her diatribe to urge child gardeners to strike, and to urge both readers and the state of California to hold the Edible Schoolyard up to more critical judgment. Whether she succeeds is open to question, but it’s probably safe to assume that she won’t be making reservations at Chez Panisse anytime soon.