Thursday, 3 July 2008

Only in America

Americans sometimes contrive to screw things up royally, but you gotta admire the attitude.

Last week I spotted this - well, you can hardly miss it - above the Julia Richman High, once one of New York's roughest schools, see backstory here.

Our very own Francis Bacon. Somehow, though, it's difficult to imagine it over one of our own inner-city academies ...


photo © Nick Drew 2008


Old BE said...

There are some good inscriptions above doors in the US. I wish we had the same tradition.

Old BE said...

BTW fascinating article. Basically backs up the idea for independently run, competing schools.

Nick Drew said...

your own excellent photos inspired me to carry camera, BE

Old BE said...

I've never been accused of being inspirational before!


Bill Quango MP said...

The good news is that whatever America does we follow eventually.
It used to be a 10 year gap but in more recent times its about 6 months.

So instead of

'Injury lawyers for you'
'Gang culture'
'progressive education'
'dating contracts'
'mortgages for all'

we may get

'Independent schools'
'three strikes and you're out'
'zero tolerance for crime'
'civic pride'
'locally elected representatives'

and just possibly... Democracy

Anonymous said...

As your informant from the bottom end of the heap - can you check the stats on how many lower than average income people have defaulted or ceased paying pension payments in the last couple of months? I am told its a phenomenal number as people put the quids back into their pay packets...

Anonymous said...

Engraved in the white marble of the courthouse near my home is "Education and morality constitute the force and majesty of free government."

The library near my house has some interesting Latin prominently displayed across the front: "Anno bibliotheca fons eruditionis momiu" or something like that (sorry, lousy memory).

I would say that these things are more ironic that inspirational. Education, morality, and free government are long gone from America and these plaques are the remaining vestiges of the precepts on which the United States was founded.

PS: I think that Dean Kamen put it best when he said what was wrong with American education: culture. Let me explain what I think he was talking about: Paris Hilton, Jessica Simpson, et al. are glorified on television as they make public (and ignominous) spectacles of themselves. Being smart is still... well, it's just nerdy and not exciting.

I agree with that and would add the following points:

- The education that Americans do get is dominated by messages like "Racism and misogyny are pervasive among white males, the ruling class" instead of "e=mc^2" and other mathematical and scientific concepts. Universities try to give what they call a "Liberal Education" and sell it as "opening minds;" these are really just code for "adopt our values."

- The vast majority of educators in the United States think that money is the answer to the educational crisis in this country. Sorry, but the United States already outspends most school systems in Europe, where students perform much better on standardized tests. Money is not the problem.

- Schools emphasize the arts and make them compulsory (and nearly commensurate in importance to math and science). Art is a wonderful thing, but it is something to be pursued in leisure. There is nothing productive about an impressionist painting, Jazz CD, or fiction novel. Compare those with... say, a technology improvement that leads to a reduction in energy consumption that a science education fosters.

I could probably pump out a few more things if I sat here and thought about it, but the bottom line is that smaller class sizes and funding are not going to change education in America.

There's that old aphorism: You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink. US kids don't want to learn (I'm generalising, of course); they want to party and wind up on a leaked sex tape.

Anonymous said...

Size is not everything, 2,000 "kids " at my old school, never did me any harm ( probably because they still did detention, the cane and the odd expulsion )..

Nick Drew said...

mutt - can't help there myself but it's another scary manifestation: (have you seen this blog ?)

matt - there's a wonderful Doonesbury strip, where the wastrel Zipper is showing a university applicant around Walden, emphasising how laid back it is, major-league partying etc: the kid replies that he's sorry but it's much too cool for him, "my family come from geek stock, we value study"

Mr Bloke - know what you mean, I'm old enough too ... rich vein of comments could doubtless break out now !

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