Ever since it hit the interwebs yesterday, Caitlin Flanagan's incendiary anti-Edible Schoolyard piece in this month's The Atlantic has been a lightning rod for controversy. As expected, the entire debate is full of entertainment on both sides (even Kim Severson said "Yowser!"), and it didn't take long for the Slow Foodists to fire back (Hey Alice, if you want to chime in, drop us a line). Here's a snippet from one of the longer rebuttals in favor of garden curricula from Iowa chef Kurt Michael Friese, who serves on the Slow Food USA National Board of Directors.
While [Flanagan] notes that the work of the garden has migrated into each of the classrooms, she ignores the obvious point that this demonstrates: There is nothing taught in schools that cannot be learned in a garden. [Ed. note: computers] Math and science to be sure, but also history, civics, logic, art, literature, music, and the birds and the bees both literally and figuratively.
Friese goes on to counter most of Flanagan's points one by one, with arguments of varying validity. For example, he wisely and correctly points out that Flanagan's case goes off the rails when she brings up teaching to the test in order to create better students. On the other hand, he also makes the dicey argument that "the passion for learning developed in a garden, driven home by the lightening-bolt of awareness when a kid bites into a vine-ripened tomato she grew herself, is worth essays on ten plays even if Arthur Miller or Shakespeare wrote them all." Um.
As with most issues like this, it's not a black and white issue by any means, so feel free to contribute further thoughts in the comments. But we are curious to see what Corby Kummer—food honcho at The Atlantic and noted Slow Food supporter—thinks of all this commotion.
· Failure to Cultivate: A Response to Caitlin Flanagan on School Gardens [Civil Eats]
· Cultivating Failure [The Atlantic]