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weinoo

Tired of the Alice Waters Backlash - Are You?

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I can't say that I rememember a substantial number or proportion of criticisms of Waters' ideas that were framed as an attack on her person in this thread. This would constitute an ad hominem argument.

What I do see is that a number of people have said that the way Waters expresses some of her ideas, and perhaps some of the ideas themselves, have made them not like Waters very much. I and others have also pointed out that this can have an impact on how welcoming people may be in receiving her ideas. These do not constitute ad hominem arguments.

Indeed, even saying something such as, "what a jerk Alice is for saying that people should buy fancy grapes instead of running shoes" is not an ad hominem argument.


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Yet more on the subject with the Atlantic's Caitlin Flanagan's "Cultivating Failure" in the Atlantic taking Waters et al out behind the woodshed for a serious public flogging:

This notion—that it is agreeably possible to do good (school gardens!) and live well (guinea hens!)—bears the hallmark of contemporary progressivism, a kind of win-win, “let them eat tarte tatin” approach to the world and one’s place in it that is prompting an improbable alliance of school reformers, volunteers, movie stars, politicians’ wives, and agricultural concerns (the California Fertilizer Foundation is a big friend of school gardens) to insert its values into the schools.

As if outsized hyperbole is the only tool available to refute such claims, Kurt Friese (Society member devotay) of the Civil Eats blog writes,

There is nothing taught in schools that cannot be learned in a garden. ... While it is rightly noted that the grades at the school quickly improved, the contention that “a recipe is much easier to write than a coherent paragraph on The Crucible” is not only insulting to professional chefs and food writers (like, well, me), but also is patently false. There is a world of difference between writing a recipe and writing one well, as anyone who as ever come across the words “but first” in a recipe will attest. The more important point though is the one that Flanagan glosses over: that the passion for learning developed in a garden, driven home by the lightening-bolt of awareness when a kid bites into a vine-ripened tomato she grew herself, is worth essays on ten plays even if Arthur Miller or Shakespeare wrote them all.

More to come, I'm sure. Thanks to John Sconzo for the links.


Chris Amirault

camirault@eGstaff.org

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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Now, I grew up in a family of academics. My father has been at major research universities for his entire career. My mother has worked both as a teacher in public schools and at research universities. My paternal grandparents were both educators. My mother-in-law has spend her entire career in public education. I have at least a half-dozen friends who are making their careers in public education.

All of which I provide as an indication that I have some basis to know whereof I speak when I say that the educational system of this country is scandalously underfunded and perhaps the worst in the world among "first world" industrialized nations.

Just skimmed this thread today, so forgive me if this has been covered. I must respectfully disagree with Mr. Kinsey on the above. It's been shown that there is no clear correlation between amount of money spent on education and "desired" outcomes (i.e. test scores). As for how the U.S. compares with secondary education spending to other countries, here is this from the Nationmaster.comwebsite, emphasis added:

# 1 Switzerland: $9,348.00 per student

# 2 Austria: $8,163.00 per student

# 3 United States: $7,764.00 per student

# 4 Norway: $7,343.00 per student

# 5 Denmark: $7,200.00 per student

# 6 France: $6,605.00 per student

# 7 Italy: $6,458.00 per student

# 8 Germany: $6,209.00 per student

# 9 Japan: $5,890.00 per student

# 10 Australia: $5,830.00 per student

So maybe we are not getting our "bang for the buck" out of our education dollars and perhaps we need to rethink where the money is being spent, but that is an argument for a different forum. My husband used to teach so I do have some insight on the problems in the education system, but neither of us ever felt low teacher pay or underfunding to be the major problems.

Back to the food: when you consider that we subsidize, probably to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars, the wrong kinds of foods for our school lunch program, so maybe it's not a bad idea that we should spend the true cost of the school lunches on better food for kids, and/or in training them to eat better for life. I live in agriculture country but even here most people do not live on farms or really know much about how food is grown, distributed, etc. And most probably don't care as long as they can have their Crapplebee's. (And then complain about how fat they are getting.) But perhaps we could use the education system to, you know, educate. If people make bad decisions because they don't care, there's nothing we can (or should, in my opinion) do. But if they are making bad choices because of ignorance, that is something that can be addressed.

For the record, I think AW comes off as a preachy know-it-all nag, and I would rather not listen to her speak. I also have a huge chip on my shoulder for Lexus-driving, food co-op shopping, 'I only wipe my perfectly toned butt with organic unbleached toilet paper' types. But that doesn't mean AW's ideas are bad or wrong.

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Yet more on the subject with the Atlantic's Caitlin Flanagan's "Cultivating Failure" in the Atlantic taking Waters et al out behind the woodshed for a serious public flogging:

There is another response to Flanagan's poorly disguised rant about liberal values on HuffPo:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/samuel-fromartz/atlantics-caitlin-flanaga_b_421462.html

Then again, this article is fairly consistent with her hypocritical writing style.

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Yet more on the subject with the Atlantic's Caitlin Flanagan's "Cultivating Failure" in the Atlantic taking Waters et al out behind the woodshed for a serious public flogging: [...]

As if outsized hyperbole is the only tool available to refute such claims, Kurt Friese (Society member devotay) of the Civil Eats blog writes, [...]

I found both of these to be pretty ridiculous, like two people standing on the opposite sides of a river yelling insults at one another. The yelling just gets louder.

This Atlantic article is preposterous in so many ways its impossible to address them all; its brand of conservatism may be comforting but is extremely limiting. There are lots of things to teach and ways to do it, but receding into what we've always done is no way to deal with a problem as serious as this--it fosters thoughtlessness and inactivity when fresh ideas are perhaps desperately needed. Besides, having kids work in a garden or a kitchen for 1 1/2 hours a week is forced labor and a grave waste of time? Give me a break.

On the other hand, there's a lot to learn from writing about Shakespeare that, no, you can't learn in a garden. That's why people continue to teach Shakespeare--its pedagogically very useful and, in the right hands, you can accomplish a lot by teaching it. The idea that you can leave the realm of "book-learning" and replace it with real practical learning is attractive, but reductive. It's important to have both, which is an argument for getting kids some hands on learning (like I did in Tech Ed class and Home Ec--I wish I could have had a garden class).


nunc est bibendum...

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This Atlantic article is preposterous in so many ways its impossible to address them all; its brand of conservatism may be comforting but is extremely limiting. There are lots of things to teach and ways to do it, but receding into what we've always done is no way to deal with a problem as serious as this--it fosters thoughtlessness and inactivity when fresh ideas are perhaps desperately needed. Besides, having kids work in a garden or a kitchen for 1 1/2 hours a week is forced labor and a grave waste of time? Give me a break.

On the other hand, there's a lot to learn from writing about Shakespeare that, no, you can't learn in a garden. That's why people continue to teach Shakespeare--its pedagogically very useful and, in the right hands, you can accomplish a lot by teaching it. The idea that you can leave the realm of "book-learning" and replace it with real practical learning is attractive, but reductive. It's important to have both, which is an argument for getting kids some hands on learning (like I did in Tech Ed class and Home Ec--I wish I could have had a garden class).

Agree. Also, if kids working 1 1/2 hrs a wk in the kitchen or garden is the reason why these schools are failing, then the schools are in worse shape than I had thought.

As I was reading the article, this question came to me: Where are the voices of the Edible Schoolyard administrators, volunteers, parents, and students? Flanagan purports to speak about their opinions, beliefs, and experience, with all its supposed shortcomings. What do they have to say about it? But the only living voices in the article, outside of Flanagan's, come from Michael Piscal, a charter school CEO for South LA, who agrees with her, and an email snippet from a personal friend who, Flanagan says, is pro-Waters.

Did Flanagan ever interview people from the Edible Schoolyard? Visit the site and observe the students' experience? Talk to them about it? In fact, did she talk to any school administrators from other similar programs in the state for this article? The school administrators and teachers I know, some from the Berkeley school system, care deeply about the students in their charge. If their students are not benefitting from the program, or are even being hurt from it, wouldn't they notice or care?

Flanagan's research for the article does not appear to have taken her far from her home computer in Compton, a suburb of LA. Her sources are books, studies, statistics; visits to 2 supermarkets in Compton; and a reference to a volunteer food bank job in LA. Shuttles fly between LA and the SF or Oakland airports every hour. Why didn't Flanagan hop on a plane for the one-hour flight and visit Edible Schoolyard? or call or email people involved with the Edible Schoolyard? If she said she was writing an article for Atlantic, I'm sure somebody would have talked with her or emailed a response. The fact that Flanagan did none of these things--or, if she did, failed to mention what Edible Schoolyard proponents had to say to her--speaks volumes for this article and how much attention it's worth.

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