New issue of Critical Education: Educating Future Generations of Community Gardeners

Critical Education
Volume 3 Number 3
Educating Future Generations of Community Gardeners
Shane Jesse Ralston
Penn State University, Hazleton

Abstract

In this paper, I formulate a Deweyan argument for school gardening that prepares students for a specific type of gardening activism: community gardening, or the political activity of collectively organizing, planting and tending gardens for the purposes of food security, education and community development. Though not identical, a related type of gardening activism, guerrilla gardening, or the political activity of reclaiming unused urban land, sometimes illegally, for purposes of cultivation and beautification, is also implicated. Historically, community gardening in the U.S. has been associated with relief projects during periods of economic downturn and crisis, urban blight and gentrification, as well as nationalism, nativism and racism. Despite these last few unfortunate associations, the American philosopher John Dewey detached school gardening from the nativist’s tool-kit, portraying it as a gateway to more enriching adult experiences, not as a technique for assimilating immigrant children to a distinctly American way of life. One of those experiences that school gardening can prepare children for is environmental political activism, particularly involvement in gardening movements. Dewey did not mention this collateral benefit. Nevertheless, an argument can be made that garden advocacy—or, more specifically, participation in politically-motivated gardening movements—is an acceptable interpretation, or elaboration, of what Dewey meant by “a civic turn” to school gardening.

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