The despoiler of school gardens

Do you know who Caitlin Flanagan is? Well, neither did I until this week. I have lived my entire life in happy oblivion of the woman, but this week, suddenly, her name kept cropping up in several of the gardening blogs that I regularly read. It seems that she wrote a piece for The Atlantic decrying the use of gardening as a teaching tool in schools and particularly excoriating school gardens. Garden bloggers were not amused. As a garden blogger, I count myself as one of the unamused.

Who does this woman think she is? She believes that children should be learning Shakespeare instead of getting their hands dirty in a garden and participating in the "desperate daily scrabble to wrest sustenance from dirt." Where the hell does she think food comes from, the grocery store? I guess in her world it just magically appears on the grocery store shelves, never having touched "dirt."

And since when did education become a choice between learning Shakespeare and learning to be more self sufficient by growing one's own vegetables? Most kids, I think, are smart enough to master at least two concepts during a school day. Maybe even three.

In a nation where obesity and diabetes are well on their way to becoming epidemics if indeed they aren't already, I can think of few more important components of education than teaching kids about food, about where it comes from, and how to make good food choices. And the fact that in the process of teaching them these things, their instructors get them off their butts and into the sunshine and open air where they perform actual physical labor seems to me a bonus and a very good thing. Not according to Ms. Flanagan, however.

What Ms. Flanagan's warped sense of values could use, I think, is a little "dirt therapy." She should get outside, away from her computer keyboard, and actually get her hands dirty digging in the earth. She should try actually planting some tomatoes or beans or corn. She might be surprised at how pleasurable and rewarding the activity can be. But mostly she just needs to get back to doing her social criticism pieces on things like "Sex and the Married Man" or "What Girls Want" and take her cotton pickin' hands off school gardens.

(The best response to Caitlin Flanagan's criticism of school gardens that I have read has come from Michele Owens of "Garden Rant." Read all about it here.)


  1. I'd be a lot happier if Ms. Flanagan got herself all up in arms about kids learning only the things they need to pass state/national tests. Now that's something to rant about! But students participating in school gardens? Give me a break!

    A resourceful teacher could tie that activity into all her subjects. But no! It would be much better to keep education completely one-dimensional. I'm sure kids learn much more from a teacher reading something to them than from actually doing something! Uh huh...


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