Berkeley’s Edible Schoolyard under attack

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Alice Waters and students at King Middle School's Edible Schoolyard.

An article which claims edible school gardens, such as Berkeley’s famous one at King Middle School, are “cheating our most vulnerable students”, is ruffling feathers, both on this site and more widely.

“Cultivating Failure”, written by Caitlin Flanagan and published in the January/February issue of The Atlantic, was brought to our attention by BerkeleysideĀ reader Alicia. In the piece, Flanagan argues that children who grow vegetables as part of Alice Waters’ Edible Schoolyard project would be better off in the classroom or reading a book:

The cruel trick has been pulled on this benighted child by an agglomeration of foodies and educational reformers who are propelled by a vacuous if well-meaning ideology that is responsible for robbing an increasing number of American schoolchildren of hours they might otherwise have spent reading important books or learning higher math (attaining the cultural achievements, in other words, that have lifted uncounted generations of human beings out of the desperate daily scrabble to wrest sustenance from dirt).

Writing on La Vida Locavore, Jill Richardson responds: “I’m sorry but you cannot get it any more wrong than that. I’ve been gardening with my boyfriend’s kids for a few months now and the amount of science (not to mention language, history, and math) they have learned from our adventures in the garden is unbelievable.”

Richardson goes on to describe the many learningĀ opportunitiesĀ gardening has offered her students.

Meanwhile, on Twitter, Kim Severson, food writer for the New York Times, today tweeted: “Yowser! School gardens under attack as evil? But there is so much real evil out there…”

This one will no doubt run and run.

[Photo: www.edibleschoolyard.org]

Update: Ripostes to Flanagan’s article have, as predicted, begun to appear. Here, on Civil Eats,Ā  is chef Kurt Michael Friese, founder of Slow Food Iowa City, and owner, with his wife Kim McWane Friese, of the Iowa City restaurant Devotay (hat-tip: Eater.com)

Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside. Email: tracey@citysidejournalism.org.