Letting schoolkids grow things in gardens has become controversial, the Times informs us today. Alice Waters, who runs Chez Panisse in Berkeley, has a foundation that endows programs in which children raise gardens at school. One of the “Edible Schoolyard” projects is starting in Gravesend, giving P.S. 216 a $1.6 million solar-powered kitchen classroom.
What could be bad about that? In The Atlantic, Caitlin Flanagan has denounced the whole Edible Classrooms project — at first on the puzzling grounds that, should one of those little children happen to have come from a family of migrant workers, he would be made to feel bad, then later and in the Times on the grounds that no one can prove having children plant things will help them in tests, and that they should thus stick to their books and stop playing in the dirt.
The Times‘ dissemination of Flanagan’s thesis may mark a turning point. Once upon a time it was considered outrageous, or at least too bad, that public schools were forced to cut music, drama, dance, sports, and other such programs, and that such cuts impoverished kids’ spirits, as argued in sentimental movies and by the continuance of such programs in private schools. Now we have a cultivated magazine essayist telling us that crap like that only gets in the way. This harshly utilitarian point of view was once limited to bureaucrats, bean-counters and Gradgrinds — now it has an intellectual champion, and a mother to boot. Flanagan could soon become the Betsy McCaughey of the education world, which is perhaps the idea.
Flanagan was previously noted in this space for her essay on how Cosmopolitan founder Helen Gurley Brown was a dirty whore who made John Edwards cheat on his wife. Fork in the Road considers her anti-garden theories.