Caitlin Flanagan has used her fey, patrician writing style to skewer members of the upper-middle class for everything from their reliance on poorly paid housekeepers to their obsession with elite colleges. In this month’s issue of The Atlantic, she unleashes her ire on gardens in public schoolyards, accusing them of robbing underprivileged American school children of a high-quality education. She writes:
With these gardens—and their implication that one of the few important things we as a culture have to teach the next generation is what and how to eat—we’re mocking one of our most ennobling American ideals. Our children don’t get an education because they’re lucky, or because we’ve generously decided to give them one as a special gift. Our children get an education—or should get an education—because they have a right to one.
The attack elicited impassioned responses from everyone from the Huffington Post to Slate to Flanagan’s Atlantic colleague Corby Kummer.
- Don’t Blame Arugula for Failing Schools Several writers, including Samuel Fromartz at the Huffington Post and Andrew Leonard at Salon, criticized Flanagan for pointing to school gardens as a reason schools are failing when the American education system has so many bigger problems. Fromartz writes:
[M]igrant parents would probably spend more time worrying about Sacramento gutting meager school resources and teachers' positions then about the 1-1/2 hours a week their kid spends tending the arugula. And they should.
- Where’s the Beef? Writing for Slate’s XX blog, Emily Bazelon says Flanagan doesn’t offer enough proof to support her case. She writes: “Caitlin Flanagan may be right that Alice Waters' school garden movement in California is an undeserving fad. But I don't see the evidence in Atlantic.”
- Flanagan Misses the Point After interviewing school garden leaders, Corby Kummer writes on the Atlantic Food Channel blog that the gardens do have educational value. “School gardens might not have been proven, yet, to make students get higher scores. But they will make students lead richer lives--and likely better-educated ones too,” Kummer writes.