Caitlin Flanagan is such a smashingly good writer that I normally devour anything she’s written. But when I saw her latest piece in the Atlantic—roughly 5000 words in opposition to public school gardens, where students learn horticulture instead of long division—it seemed well, too petty a subject for Flanagan’s vast talents—so I put it aside without reading it.
Today I read it. Wow, was I wrong. This is Caitlin Flanagan at her blistering best. I’ll offer you a few choice quotes, but my real recommendation is to leave now and go read the entire piece.
With the Edible Schoolyard..the idea of a school as a venue in which to advance a social agenda has reached rock bottom. This kind of misuse of instructional time…has been employed to cheat kids out of thousands of crucial learning hours over the years, so that they might be indoctrinated in whatever the fashionable idea of the moment or the school district might be. One year it’s hygiene and the another it’s anti-Communism; in one city it’s safe-sex “outercourse” and in another it’s abstinence-only education.
Does the immigrant farm worker dream that his child will learn to enjoy manual labor, or that his child will be freed from it?…If this patronizing agenda were promulgated in the Jim Crow South by a white man who was espousing a sharecropping curriculum for African American students, we would see it for what it is: A way of bestowing field work and low expectations on a giant population of students who might become troublesome if they actually got an education.
Until our kids have a decent chance at mastering the essential skills and knowledge that they will need to graduate from high school, we should devote every resource and every moment of their academic day to helping them realize that life-changing goal. Otherwise we become complicit—through our best intentions—in an act of theft that will not only contribute to the creation of a permanent, undereducated underclass, but will rob that group of the very force necessary to change its state.
There’s much more where that came from. Why are you still here?