In response to the article in the April 28 issue of East Bay Express airing the controversy about the value of Alice Waters inspired Edible Schoolyard at King Middle School, Caitlan Flanagan writing in The Atlantic misses the essential point. Children whose families raise food in their backyards are privileged children, regardless of whether their parents also send them to exclusive summer camps and travel abroad. Even Luke Tsoi, author of the article, brings his cultural baggage, opining that “the truth of the matter is that California is in crisis right now with its failure to equip so many of its students with the basic skills that they’ll need to go on to college and become successful.” Our failure as a society is this, to offer ourselves and our children one measure of privilege, one measure of success.
My experience working with at-risk kids on the Susquehanna watershed replicates what Eichorn reports in the Edible Garden. Unsurprisingly, restoration work on one’s own watershed and/or tapping into our ancient agricultural heritage in a harmonious way—seed, water, harvest, prepare and share—restores the child. And restores the human. This unrelenting focus on standardized testing to the exclusion of pursuits that make us more human are shortsighted. But then shortsightedness is perhaps the most descriptive quality of human development at this time, the one that is driving our species and other species and the planet MAD: mutually assured destruction.
Green jobs, now in its infant stage, will be the harbinger of a future that is sustainable. What a pity that Recovery dollars have focused on shovel-ready highway jobs rather than (for example) restoring the estimated 25,000 miles of West Virginia streams that have been despoiled by mountaintop removal of coal. The brief respite we and our pollinators experienced last year with State Departments of Transportations’ frugality will surely see a summer of blasted median strips, as the chemical companies restock DOT supplies for poisoning our wild verges and streams.
I still believe that Green Jobs is on Obama’s checklist and that he will get back to a National Service Program for our young people. In the meantime, Edible Schoolyard isn’t a program, it’s a movement. It can’t be stopped by the shortsighted.