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School Gardens Bad for Kids?

3031338234_c701b7020d_mFew things warm the cockles of my crunchy, alternative-education loving heart like the site of a thriving school garden carefully tended by the local elementary kids.

My daughter’s kindergarten has one where they grow the usual school garden fare: bulbs, herbs, a few hardy things that can’t be easily killed by a horde of overenthusiastic gardners.

This month’s Atlantic Monthly features a scathing take-down of this charming trend. Caitlin Flanagan takes on the school garden movement for, as she sees it, robbing children of valuable instructional time and replacing those hours with menial labor.

The poor immigrants who struggle for the opportunity to raise their kids in this country, she argues, do so to escape lives of hard physical labor. They send their kids to America’s public schools to get the education that will allow them to lift themselves out of that history of poverty into the comparatively aristocratic life of the American middle class.

Forcing those children to spend some of their instructional time learning skills their parents could easily teach them but long to forget isn’t a gift, Flanagan argues, it’s a theft.

On the other side of the argument are educators and parents who want kids to be spending more time outside, moving their bodies and learning about where food comes from and what foods are good to eat. Given what we know about what kids eat, these are lessons our kids need as badly as they need math and science education.

What do you think? Do you want your kids participating in a school garden project, or logging extra hours with a math textbook?

Photo: Upturnedface

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