Fog Creek Software
Discussion Board




Another take on American education

Since the topic brought up sixty-odd replies in the "Johnny kan't reed gud" thread, I thought this article might be of interest. It attacks the topic from a different viewpoint.

http://news.independent.co.uk/world/americas/story.jsp?story=441456

Stephen Jones
Tuesday, September 09, 2003

I'd be interested to hear from people who are familiar with the education systems in, say, India, China, or Germany - is questioning authority encouraged there?

Philo

Philo
Tuesday, September 09, 2003

Intersting and insightful article.

I've read elsewhere about the "homogenization" of the school textbooks.  His explanation of that was very clear.

Did you notice that it was a UK website? It's interesting (and scary) that the greatest insight about our country comes from OUTSIDE the USA.

Entrepreneur
Tuesday, September 09, 2003

Good point Philo.

But our Ed system's problems aren't limited to conformity.
The textbooks are the basis of most classes.  The systemic homognenizing of the material is stifling students. 

While students may have never been encouraged to dissent, they now have nothing to fuel any dissent.  The textbooks don't mention anythihng about WHY things happen.  The ommision of the religious reasons for the Holy Wars is just one example.

I think mediocre teachers will always discourage dissent. Dissenting students are more challenging to "teach to the test".  (Perhaps the problem is the tests are testing the wrong things).

But bland textbooks limit even the exceptional teachers. and it's incredibly insdious and systemic.

Entrepreneur
Tuesday, September 09, 2003

What I found interesting is that the author seems to have expected to find something else. I mean, this has been a standard tirade against public schools in the USA since as long as I have been alive. 

dead horse
Tuesday, September 09, 2003

There are loads of EFL teachers in China and to a man they have almost total contempt for the education system, which consists of repetition and rote learning (which the person in the "reed gud" thread seems to be in favour of).

Germany I don't know about, but the few German students I have had have all been exceptionally well-informed and prepared to argue the point.

How effective education is is another thing. The Saudi education system is rote learning but I have never met such an argumentative collective as a class of Saudi students (the argumentativeness is more concerned with contradicting you on principle than finding the truth, but is still an improvement over meekly accepting what you say).

On another tack, I think there is another factor of greater importance. Every country (unfortunately?) is exposed to American culture and American media. So, even in countries where there is conformist media and a monolithic education system, there exist at least two viewpoints. The only country this is not true of is the USA,, since there is only one point of view.

Stephen Jones
Tuesday, September 09, 2003

I can't answer for India, China, or Germany, but in France I would say that questioning the authority is somewhat encouraged ; for example by history teachers (that does not mean that French education is inherently better at all).
In any case, French pupils do not learn patriotic songs (at least in ordinary schools).

GP
Tuesday, September 09, 2003

The only other country i have experience with is Japan (lived there for 2 years) and as far as I can tell, the elementary and secondary schools there exist primarily to teach children how to be Japanese.

dead horse
Tuesday, September 09, 2003

---"It's interesting (and scary) that the greatest insight about our country comes from OUTSIDE the USA. "---

Actually that is true of nearly every country. The leading historian of 19th century England was a Frenchman, Halévy, and the best book on 18th century England was written by De Tocquville, another Frenchman. If you want a great comment on mid-twentieth century England then read "How to be an alien" by the Hungarian, George Mikes, and for insights on late 20th century England try Bryson, an American.

The leading Spanish literary critic was an Irishman/Englishman?, Gerald Brenan, the best contemporary accounts of the Spanish Civil War were written by an Englishman, Orwell, twoFrenchmen, Bernanos and Malraux, and an American, Hemingway.

Sometimes locals are so emotionally involved that objectivity becomes a pip-dream. When it was suggested a few weeks ago that more history should be taught in Sri Lankan schools, the Constitutional affairs Minister, and the country's leading economist and intellectual, G. Peiris, suggested that they would have to hire foreigners to write the history because no Sri Lankan could be trusted to be objective! ( a little unfair on those few who despite intellectual and physical threats continue to be objective, but a reasonable description of the state of affairs nevertheless).

Stephen Jones
Tuesday, September 09, 2003

Because of my Dad's job, I have strudied in Brunei, Germany,  UK, Canada and the US.

It is hard to say one is better than the other.

But the better funded the junior/emenetary schools are the better the foundation of the students. And there better the bond of citizenship.

I think in the US, there should be heavy investments in elementary school to build on the potential of kids. And in places like the ineer-city, this can be like a beacon to some folks. It is pretty hard to teach kids after they are 12 or 13 - the behavior is ingrained.

So where will the money come from? How about keeping, say, 10% of the $87 Billion for Iraq and spending it right here at home?

Ram Dass
Tuesday, September 09, 2003

I always wondered what it would be like if teachers were paid that salary of a major-league ballplayers.

Chi Lambda
Tuesday, September 09, 2003

maybe I was lucky, but in the uk I think I got a very balanced education with enthusiastic teachers etc and discussion was encouraged.

i like i
Tuesday, September 09, 2003

---I always wondered what it would be like if teachers were paid that salary of a major-league ballplayers. ---

Teachers would have professional agents that would be responsible for for helping them get textbook publisher and sneaker endorsements. Every time a teacher's contract neared completion there would be months of arbitration to determine what school the teacher might sign with next. Teachers would be in high demand for televsision endorsements of products like "Bagel Bites" and "Hanes Undershorts".  Classes would be held in stadiums with seating for 8000. Beverage and fast food multinationals would compete for concession stand contracts in said stadiums.  Kids would collect cards of various teachers and get into schoolyard arguments about various statistics on the back of cards. Teachers would get married to various former members of the Spice Girls, or other defunct pop groups. Papparazzi would be continually trying to catch the teachers picking their nose or sunbathing topless. Etc...

dead horse
Tuesday, September 09, 2003

Chi -

Your taxes would skyrocket.

Devil's Advocate
Tuesday, September 09, 2003

Having spent 13 years in Germany's school system, I'd rather demystify that take on "questioning authority". I find it hard to find a correlation between one's attitude towards authority and personal success. I think that's an Anglo-American concept that won't fit on many countries.

From my own experiences, and from the results of last years' examinations like PISA (I guess it has a different name in other countries) the success in school (from junior (?) schools until and including universities) solely depends on the social background, but ex negativo. Which means:

(1) If you are born and raised in middle or upper class and are "medium intelligent", you might become a blue collar worker, or a top manager as well. You might end up in prison, as well. Falling down or falling up.
(2) If you are born and raised in lower class and are "medium intelligent", you are quite unlikely to make it beyond a blue collar job. The only way is down.
(3) However, if you are "intelligent above average", you can make it to the upper ranks regardless of your social background. This require personal effort, of course, but you are not hindered to make it on top because you can adapt on any circumstances.

Please not that "social background" includes your descent, i.e. whether your parents are immigrants. Most immigrants - even in the third generation - are still in lower class and have blue collar jobs. Also, "medium intelligent" does not mean "mildly intelligent", but just "typical".

So I'm sorry to say that, but for most students who are "medium intelligent" it really depends only on their social background whether they make it or not in Germany's education system. It has nothing to do with "questioning authority" or whatever concepts there are ("liberal attitude", "confession" etc.pp).

I got my asbest jacket on. Flame on.

Johnny Bravo
Tuesday, September 09, 2003

Taxes?  I thought education was going to by funded by $50 admission fees and lunch programs replaced by $10 hot dog concession stands.

Alyosha`
Tuesday, September 09, 2003

Actually Johnny, despite Germany professing to be a highly egalitarian society, it appears that the German Education system, which classifies students at a young age (ten?), is responsible for creating one of the most socially rigid societies in the world.

Stephen Jones
Tuesday, September 09, 2003

I personally think that the biggest problem with US ed is that the current fad in teaching is teaching kids how to "learn and think" instead of forcing kids to learn and thing by teaching them and forcing them to write effectively and deal in science and math.  And some good wrote learning of history, literature, and culture never did anyone any harm.

They think they are teaching kids to "learn and think" but they are mostly teaching kids how to be bored in class and feel like their time is being wasted.  If you ask most kids they will tell you that their classes are "so stupid, I don't really learn anything."  Certainly was my experience, and you all are probably quite aware that I could have stood to have taken a few more spelling tests in my lifetime.

Keith Wright
Tuesday, September 09, 2003

Well, that's one of Germany's "Lebenslügen" (is that common in English? it means s.th. like a whole generation lies to itself, but does not want to accept the truth because it's part of that generation's life concept). And that's the reason why Germany hardly attracts high potentials from other countries. In fact, our high potentials are fleeing this country, this sounds reasonable to me.

Also, this classification after the 4th grade (age 10/11) is the pivot point where most lower-class students begin to realize they are already on "skid row", no matter how hard they try, because they are easily identified as being from that class. See, it works with kind of accumulating score:

(1) black Hair, dark eyes - 5 points
(2) audible accent - 10 points
(3) no snowboarding in winter - 10 points
(4) parents don't attend school meetings - 20 points
(5) father does not drive children to school - 10 points

If you are above 30 points, you are automatically attributed to:

- not capable of creative thoughts, probably dumb
- no matter how nice you are, some day you will rob your neighbors or a fuel stop
- you have problems at home, your parents eventually beat you up
- not credible, of course

Now, if you are intelligent, you might even have a higher score but will withstand those cliches, patiently wait to finish school, and either go to a decent university (probably in another country) or be an apprentice in a company (so you can afford a Mercedes Benz to visually countermark the above attributes).

Johnny Bravo
Tuesday, September 09, 2003

Keith,
perhaps it's not school which influences their (de-)motivations, but (a) politics where even former alcoholics can become president, (b) their parents who despite working hard loose all four jobs, (c) paradox events where you have to do the wrong thing to achieve the right effect. Maybe students just don't see a clear path into future anymore, which cannot be corrected in school where they spend a maximum of 10 hours a day, and the remainder is spent with friends or at home. Just a thought.

Johnny Bravo
Tuesday, September 09, 2003


One of my wife's friends is returning to teaching after more than a decade off. Basically, she is re-doing her practicum and then it's off to substitute teaching.

In her time away from teaching, this person had run a day care. Her preferred grades to teach would have been JK/SK, 1, and 2. Instead, she will be teaching junior and senior high school science.

Why? Well, her bachelor's was a science degree. Never mind that she's been out of school for around twenty years. The school system is so hard up for teachers with a science/math background that they had to make use of her.

I thought it was a little scary.

Btw, this is in Canada, not the U.S.

anon
Tuesday, September 09, 2003

as a product of the american public education system, I can assure you, that most elementary and high school students, aside from the stupid ones, are totally bored out of their minds, as Keith describes.

rz
Tuesday, September 09, 2003

I think the article is deeply misguided and generally wrong.

First of all, the supposition that American students are not taught to question is absolutely absurd.  In fact, I think it would be very difficult to find a culture more steeped in questioning authority than American culture.

Contrast this with, say, Asian or Islamic culture.  Get real.

Couple that with the fact that the vast majority of teachers are lower-middle income citizens who tend to be quite liberal, and what you'll find is quite the opposite.  I've seen constant thronging from the right about how our schools teach our students to hate America and be ashamed of some of our less proud moments, and forget to mention the things about America which aren't so awful.  Yes, they exist.

Second, I find it disturbing when people think it impossible to love your country and simultaneously acknowledge its flaws.  I  know the members of my family are not perfect, and yet I will express my love for them with zero shame.  And shame on you if you won't.

Robert
Tuesday, September 09, 2003

"Second, I find it disturbing when people think it impossible to love your country and simultaneously acknowledge its flaws."

I find it disturbing when people profess to love their country.
Its a fucking rock for christsakes.

Look after your friends, protect your family, treat everyone with the same respect you would expect yourself, and help those in need.

For gods sake forget all the patriotism bullshit, patriotism is responsible for more death and destruction than anything else with the possible exceptions of religion and soccer.

Its a small world and getting smaller everyday, increasingly everyone sitting on this flying rock is entirely dependent on everyone else for survival, lets not stuff it up.

anonymous american
Tuesday, September 09, 2003

There's a tradition amongst all semitic groups, ie jewish and arab, for a high value to be put on education and debate.  It might have stemmed from religious argument but its spread into all areas of learning.

You might get considerably more debate in the school systems in arabic countries than you'd expect.  Women in various arab countries have a similar access to education as the men, but they also tend to be upper class families. 

There's also a high value placed on 'face' which is a different problem and a ruinous one for all concerned.

Until the 80's, in the UK, I'd say that the education system followed the usual pattern of educating according to social class.  If you came from a working class area  in the 60's and 70's then, because you hadn't been trained in it,  you would likely fail the 11 plus and end up in a Secondary Modern School.  There is nothing of value that ever came out of a Secondary Modern Education.

If you did pass the 11 plus then you tended to mix with middle class children where the social differences were quickly identified  and stratification took place.  When children left school in those decades they pretty much knew who they were and what kind of work they would end up doing.

In the 80's the comprehensive schools and polytechnic system began to shake down and provide true classless education, it still wasn't university education, but polytechnics could grant degrees and there was greater standardisation across polytechnics as to the quality and nature of courses.

Then the Tories sold Polytechnics on self governance and the possibility of becoming a University, there are now no Polytechnics left, they have all converted.  Some have retained their local community service ethos, most have not.

Now Universities of all shades compete for students that no longer have subsistence grants and who have to guarantee loans in order to get a degree at all.  And at the same time the Universities have a target intake of 50% of those leaving school.

So now we have a new education system based on class and predicated on determining the kinds of work people will do based upon where they live and their social stratum.

In forty years we've destroyed an education system on the back of dogma and cant.

We should not be surprised that it fails.

Simon Lucy
Tuesday, September 09, 2003

What's with the critism of singing the national anthem at a ball game? It's about the only time I can get away with singing in public.

Now I could do without "God Bless America" in the 7th inning stretch.

pdq
Tuesday, September 09, 2003

I know it seems curious to many Americans and its not something that is understandable, because it is inculcated at an early age, but the public affirmation of patriotism is obnoxious to most of the world.

That American's unthinking patriotism is especially obnoxious is dealt with pretty well in the article, but I don't expect it to be understood or tolerated by those that feel patriotism is a necessary Good.

As a comparison, and to show that I'm agnostic in my dislike of showy clannish behaviour, we have in England (its especially english), the season of classical music, known as the Proms, its part of the warp and weft of the culture (well it is for those that care about classical music and the regularity of public ritual, like Wimbledon and strawberries and cream), and at the end of the season there is the Last Night of the Proms performance.

The second half is generally the same, Sailor's Hornpipe, Rule Britannia and Pomp and Circumstance, I would never expect anyone not born and bred here to find most of it anything other than jingoistic and irritating.  Indeed in the year of 9/11 the order was changed entirely and a much poorer event it was with its maudlin alternative music.

The conductor of that orchestra that year was new to the job and was American, it was touted as a glorious stand with the fallen but could also be seen as tawdry.

Celebration is not wrong, patriotism need not be wrong but the habit of ritual can often conceal hatred and xenophobia.

Simon Lucy
Tuesday, September 09, 2003

> The textbooks don't mention anythihng about WHY things happen.  The ommision of the religious reasons for the Holy Wars is just one example.

Uhh, doesn't the holy in "Holy War" give it away?

> So where will the money come from? How about keeping, say, 10% of the $87 Billion for Iraq and spending it right here at home?

Let's see what you think of war funding if we are ever invaded by an Oriental army of 1 billion, and you are relegated to a prison camp.


Anon,
Why is she closing her daycare business, and returning to teaching??  Huge pay cut, and longer hours, and weekend work...

Bella
Tuesday, September 09, 2003

I received an American public school education -- from first grade all the way up to my university graduation.  All in all, it has done me well.

That said, I observed much to be improved on.  I remember the jingoism and flag waving in my elementry years; I also remember how I chafed at the mindlessness of it all.  I remember being taught the same things over and over again, year after year after year.  I remember the useless phonetics instruction I received in 4th grade, long after I had learned to read; I remember being taught to the test; I remember the useless, even counterproductive tips on "how to study effectively" (Alyosha`s tip on effective note-taking: don't do it.  You'll never look at your notes again, it's all in the book anyways, and the furiously scribbling of notes gets in the way of comprehending the material).

In the schools I went to, there seemed to always be two tracks of education -- the "honors" classes for those who wanted an education, and the "regular" track for those who just wanted to slide by.  I don't know if this is the norm for the rest of the country, or even abroad, but I can tell you this -- there's a decent education in the US for those who put the small effort of getting into the right classes.

Alyosha`
Tuesday, September 09, 2003

"I find it disturbing when people profess to love their country.
Its a fucking rock for christsakes."

Maybe your country is a rock.  My country is people and community.  So leave that argument in the garbage where it belongs.

You must make a great neighbor.

Robert
Tuesday, September 09, 2003


"For gods sake forget all the patriotism bullshit, patriotism is responsible for more death and destruction than anything else with the possible exceptions of religion and soccer."

Gah.  Frankly, I think you're pretty confused, and I couldn't let it go.

Love of country does not imply hate of other countries.
Love of country is not blind flag-waving idiocy.
Love of country is not "us against them".
Love of country does not preclude loving and respecting any and all the people of the world.

Yes, like all powerful forces, for example, modern technology, it can be used for good and it can be used for evil if abused.  That doesn't make it something to be shunned.

If country is only rock, would you mind taking your piece of rock in North Korea?  It's just rock, after all.  Arbitrary. Immaterial.  Interchangeable.  Indistinguishable.  Right?

Robert
Wednesday, September 10, 2003

This article just makes me a bit queasy.  It's amazing how, since September 11th, in every left-leaning press magazine I read, there's this ongoing diatribe about "conformist" America and how sheepish patriotism abounds.

Yet the left is hard-pressed for originality, I must say.  Every Dershowitz and his vegan sister has been screaming the same, sloganized message:

"No blood for oil!"
"Give peace a chance!"
"No tax breaks for the rich!"
"Bush is a liar!"
...

Which is not to say any of the above viewpoints are invalid, in themselves, but they tend to be very neatly packaged.  Propagandized, even.

I really think the undercurrent is, and has been for some time, in left-leaning circles that if you believe differently than they do, then you must be either uneducated, brainwashed, or an oil billionaire.  It's the whole "conservatives think in black and white terms" fallacy.

But broader politics aside, I'll agree that our children should have a more "intellectualized" education.  But let's be clear on what that means.  If they're reading Karl Marx, they had better also be reading Adam Smith.  Subscribing to Newsweek?  Get the Economist, too.  Under no terms should a more politically astute education exist solely to produce more environmental activists, and fewer religious anti-abortion zealots. :)

As to patriotism:

There is the off chance that we should teach patriotism because it's the right thing to do. :)

America is, frankly, something worthwhile and something to be proud of, and I have no problem with instilling that into our children.

Are there caveats?  Sure.  Do we not give children "well-rounded" views of America and its flaws?  Probably not.

But these are _children_.  To suggest that we can instill in them the full context necessary to "understand" America and _why_ they should be proud of it (and they should), with little margin of error, is preposterous.  Better to err in favor of appreciating America, than to raise young adults with little or no civic pride. 

smkr45
Wednesday, September 10, 2003

"French pupils do not learn patriotic songs"

Too bad -- we learned how to sing French patriotic songs in the school when we studied the French Revolution, which actually took place in another country outside the US. I must have been in a parallel universe at the time though since according to the commonly known facts about the US held by those who have never been here, we Americans are ignorant racists who don't know anything about the history, geography, or culture of any other countries because of our stupidity and self-centeredness.

I smell delicious irony baking.

Ed the Millwright
Wednesday, September 10, 2003

I'm sure that British education is just as guilty as American education.

In a discussion with a South African colleauge the subject of the Boar war came up.  This intrigued me, because I had heard of the Boar war, but did not realise that Britain had been invovled.

I received a decent grade in History on leaving school, but I never encountered the Boar war in any of my studies. 

On discovering that the Boar war involved the British, there was only one other thing I could guess:  Britain must have lost, otherwise I would have heard all about it.

On another occassion I was attending cross-cultural training because my company had been merged into a larger european group.  We British were shocked to discover that other countries did not recognise that we had 'invented everything.'

Ged Byrne
Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Ed,

Typical American.  You think irony is a baked product!  Its a form of humour, actually.

I bet you don't even know what a metaphor is!

Ged Byrne
Wednesday, September 10, 2003

"My country is people and community."

so is your world.  Why stop at loving your country?  why not love the people in your neighbouring country?  the country beside that? 

or even if you cannot love them, at least stop attacking them.  America is making the rest of the world increasingly nervous, and with bloody good reason.

"That doesn't make it something to be shunned."
The only reason to focus on your country as being an object to love is to exclude those who are not in your country.  Its entirely a them-us thing.

Otherwise why mention the country at all?  why not just say things like "yay all people in the world", "god save the united peoples everywhere, not excluding even those countries we are scared of"?
"God defend democratic countries, even if we dont agree with the decisions they make"

There is _no_ good in patriotism, the only time country is important is when we want to know whether someone else is one of 'us' or one of 'them'

anonymous american
Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Psst, Ged! That's not "Boar", it is "Boer". One is a kind of wild pig while the other... okay, maybe you were right ;-)


Wednesday, September 10, 2003

"First of all, the supposition that American students are not taught to question is absolutely absurd.  In fact, I think it would be very difficult to find a culture more steeped in questioning authority than American culture."

?

Where the heck did you go to school? In my experience (personal, anecdotal, and reading) *any* questioning of authority is dealt with very harshly in the average American school...

Philo

Philo
Wednesday, September 10, 2003

I told you I didn't know much about it.

Now I know why google has so little to say about the Boar War.

Ged Byrne
Wednesday, September 10, 2003

anonymous american wrote:

>> "'My country is people and community.'
so is your world.  Why stop at loving your country?  why not love the people in your neighbouring country?  the country beside that?"


Firstly anonymous *american*, if you're American why the hell do you spell "neighbouring" with a "u"?

Secondly, America is the most cosmopolitan country in the world.  I shudder when I hear imbeciles, such as yourself, perpetuate the rumor that America is somehow a more racist nation than the rest.  Where is your tiny, little mind?  Hundreds of thousands of Americans have given their lives to end immoral, racist institutions such as slavery.  Millions of us in the past, and today, fight for civil rights and equal opportunity.  Go to Japan you idiot; or go to India or to Syria and see how many people in those nations give a rat's behind about accommodating your culture. 

*  *  *

"There are too many people who imagine that there is something sophisticated about always believing the best of those who hate your country, and the worst of those who defend it."  - Margaret Thatcher, 5/16/2003

anon
Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Actually, for the record, Britain won the Boer War - if you call using a massive professional army to subdue a fraction of their number of guerillas a victory. In the course of the war the British invented the concentration camp and caused themselves a lot of trouble by alienating the local population. So no lessons for us there. No, wait a minute....

David Clayworth
Wednesday, September 10, 2003

"Hundreds of thousands of Americans have given their lives to end immoral, racist institutions such as slavery. "

Yes, mostly fighting other Americans who were in favour of it.

David Clayworth
Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Damn, got to stop feeding those trolls. They're getting too fat.

David Clayworth
Wednesday, September 10, 2003

David Clayworth wrote:

"'Hundreds of thousands of Americans have given their lives to end immoral, racist institutions such as slavery. '

Yes, mostly fighting other Americans who were in favour of it."

The point is - and I'll make it perfectly clear because someone of your limited mental capacity obviously doesn't posses the faculties to glean the meaning - millions and millions of Americans suffer hardships great and small on a daily basis to ensure that America stays her course towards becoming a more tolerant, inclusive nation.  By and large, in our two-hundred odd years of existence, we have done more for civil rights and civil liberties than any other country in the world has managed to do in their centuries or millennia of existence.

anon
Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Sigh.

Um, this guy is British, right?  Of course he's going to be upset.  I mean, his kid is going to be taught that the British were oppressors that America had to cast off to free themselves.  Of course he will despise American patriotism.  The British hated the movie "The Patriot" for the same reason.

Look, conformity or nonconformity, free-thinking versus rote memorization is not the root problem here.  Basic literacy, basic math, basic historic and geographical facts.  Once our children master those, they may be able to start forming some worthwhile opinions on important issues.

Until then, independent thinking rooted in ignorance ain't worth squat.

Jim Rankin
Wednesday, September 10, 2003

"In my experience (personal, anecdotal, and reading) *any* questioning of authority is dealt with very harshly in the average American school..."

Are you including universities?  The few times I challenged a professor, they did get all huffy about it for a while as they defended their position, but in the end, I think, they appreciated a student who at least thought about the issues.  I got pretty decent grades from them in the end, too.

Jim Rankin
Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Dislike of The Patriot film was more about it being a crap film and hysterical rather than historical.

You won't find anyone in Britain caring about late eighteenth century english politics or being described as oppressors, even if this isn't really borne out by the facts.

Sounds more likely that you overlaid your own prejudices and didn't bother to read it.

Simon Lucy
Wednesday, September 10, 2003

---" By and large, in our two-hundred odd years of existence, we have done more for civil rights and civil liberties than any other country in the world has managed to do in their centuries or millennia of existence. "-------

Uhh! shouldn't that be in all caps, just so we get the point!

---" or go to India or to Syria and see how many people in those nations give a rat's behind about accommodating your culture.  "-----

Err, I have - and found that my culture was treated with exquisite respect. But I'd still be interested to hear about your, obviously less pleasant, personal experiences in those countries.

Stephen Jones
Wednesday, September 10, 2003

"Are you including universities?"

Nope. If we're relying on universities to teach questioning authority and critical thinking, then it's too late - I'm talking elementary education.

As for universities, here's one that doesn't seem to appreciate questioning authority:
http://www.reviewjournal.com/lvrj_home/2003/Jul-06-Sun-2003/opinion/21580706.html

Of course, the fact that the ACLU probably knows most university disciplinary committees by name may also be an indicator...

Philo

Philo
Wednesday, September 10, 2003

About that patriotism thingie in different countries:

France: The French seem to have a long history record of loving and (re-)building their nation. Maybe they're taking things a little too personal.
England: The same, but with a little bit more good sportsmanship and humour (cf. Pomps).
Italy: They don't take anything about their nation serious, patriotism is replaced by regional loyalty (Sicilia, Milano etc.)
Germany: Patriotism is connected with fashism, i.e. a patriot is considered either a veteran or a skinhead.

Personally, I like the British people's attitude towards patriotism the most.

Johnny Bravo
Wednesday, September 10, 2003

I attended a University which made more than its fair share of boneheaded Disciplinary Committee decisions. From what I could tell, the only two 'crimes' covered were cheating and generating bad publicity for the school. Anything more criminal went through the police.

In the cases where publicity was already involved, there seemed to be a preponderance of verdicts which 'affirmed principles' rather than ones which 'relied on the facts of the case'.

I suppose that's what one might expect from a group whose usual course of business is to reprimand Chester Q. Moneybags III for handing in the same term paper his fraternity brother did the year before.

Most importantly, however, the quality of decisions from a Disciplinary Committee typically have no correlation whatsoever with the quality of the education afforded by the institution.

Devil's Advocate
Wednesday, September 10, 2003

"Nope. If we're relying on universities to teach questioning authority and critical thinking, then it's too late - I'm talking elementary education."

Again, you need a certain basis before questioning authority is useful.  How constructive is it to criticize 4*3=12?

Also, can we trust teachers to teach children how to "question authority"?  They will simply teach children to question the authority of institutions the teachers don't like, but to trust other authorities (say, teachers).  It just becomes another opportunity for indoctrination.

For example, would you support children being taught to question and criticize some of the evidence and ideas currently taught about evolution?

Jim Rankin
Wednesday, September 10, 2003

"Firstly anonymous *american*, if you're American why the hell do you spell "neighbouring" with a "u"? "

??? because its 'proper' english and Ive lived in England for the last 2 years, its remarkable how quickly its possible to adapt to other cultures.

"I shudder when I hear imbeciles, such as yourself, perpetuate the rumor that America is somehow a more racist nation than the rest. "

you great ninny.  I _never_ said anything of the sort. 
America is exactly as racist as any other nation, neither more nor less so.  This is because it is composed of people, and communities, exactly like other nations.

"Hundreds of thousands of Americans have given their lives to end immoral, racist institutions such as slavery."

<g> as someone else has pointed out, the war against slavery was fought by americans, against americans.

"Go to Japan you idiot; or go to India or to Syria"

Ive been to both India and New Guinea.
I was treated with absolute courtesy while I was india, barring a wee incident where a taxi driver attempted to drive off with our luggage..but then that hardly counts as racism.
New Guinea was if anything even more of a pleasant stay.

Where have you been on those countries that you were treated so badly?

anonymous american
Wednesday, September 10, 2003

-----"They will simply teach children to question the authority of institutions the teachers don't like, but to trust other authorities (say, teachers).  It just becomes another opportunity for indoctrination."-----

The solution to that probliem is of couirse pluralism. For one die-hard lefty you'll have one right-wing fundy, and most shades inbetween. I think the original article is complaining that the US education system is papering over the differences instead of letting schoolchildren see they exist, and make up their own minds.

Stephen Jones
Wednesday, September 10, 2003

At the schools I went to, questioning authority was fairly rare.  But then, there was relatively little to question.  My education consisted mainly of uncontroversial topics -- could you imagine the following scene? 

"The Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776".

"No it wasn't!"

"The area underneath a curve can be found by computing the antiderivitive for the upper and lower bounds and subtracting the results".

"Nuh-uh!"

"The chemical formula for ethly alcohol is C2H5OH".

"Lies!  Lies!  All lies!"

It would have been interesting to have a Critical Thinking class, which would cover several controversial topics (in such fields as religion, politics, science, economics, and philosophy), bring in evidences all over the spectrum, and where the students would write papers on which evidences they find most compelling, and why. 

But then you'd have to deal with the uproar of parents protesting the real and imagined biases of the teacher, or even that such topics were being discussed in class in the first place (imagine a religious family which would want to shelter their children from faith-damaging argumentation).

I've never heard of such a class here in the US or abroad; if they exist, they certainly aren't part of the regular curriculum.  I doubt it would ever work, either.

Alyosha`
Wednesday, September 10, 2003

anonymous american:

>> "you great ninny.  I _never_ said anything of the sort. 
America is exactly as racist as any other nation, neither more nor less so.  This is because it is composed of people, and communities, exactly like other nations."

You great ka-ka poo-poo head.  America is exactly *unlike* other nations.  We have the most heterogeneous population and the most liberal immigration laws of any major nation.  We are cosmopolitan and with every passing year we evolve into a more inclusive nation. 

*  *  *

>> "Ive been to both India and New Guinea.  I was treated with absolute courtesy..."

So what?  What in the heck does your goofy little touristy, anecdotal experience prove?  Do you think you could emigrate to Japan?  If you managed to, do you think there are equal opportunity employment provisions to protect your sorry occidental ass?  Why don't you try googling on 'Japan' and 'xenophobia' and 'racism'?

Just saw an article entitled "Barbie Deemed Threat to Saudi Morality".  <http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/ap/20030909/ap_on_re_mi_ea/saudi_barbie>  <SARCASM> I'm absolutely certain that if you lived in the Middle East, people would bend over backwards to accommodate your cultural values and mores. </SARCASM>  And then they'd string you up and castrate you. 

BTW, as long as we're talking about our trips abroad, I visited France and was *not* treated with courtesy.  I did find their curious aversion to bathing rather interesting though.

*  *  *

>> "<g> as someone else has pointed out, the war against slavery was fought by americans, against americans."

And as I pointed out:
"The point is - and I'll make it perfectly clear because someone of your limited mental capacity obviously doesn't posses the faculties to glean the meaning - millions and millions of Americans suffer hardships great and small on a daily basis to ensure that America stays her course towards becoming a more tolerant, inclusive nation.  By and large, in our two-hundred odd years of existence, we have done more for civil rights and civil liberties than any other country in the world has managed to do in their centuries or millennia of existence."

*  *  *

>> "??? because its 'proper' english and Ive lived in England for the last 2 years, its remarkable how quickly its possible to adapt to other cultures."

Is it also 'proper' English to begin sentences with lower-case letters and omit apostrophes in contractions?  Why don't you just admit you're not 'anonymous american', but 'poseur american'?

anon
Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Nationalism is an infantile disease. It is the measles of mankind. - Albert Einstein.


Thursday, September 11, 2003

"America is exactly *unlike* other nations.  We have the most heterogeneous population and the most liberal immigration laws of any major nation."

We do _not_ have the most heterogeneous population, britain has that spot.
we do _not_ have the most liberal immigration laws of any major nation, we have one of the worst.

"We are cosmopolitan and with every passing year we evolve into a more inclusive nation"

no, with every passing year we are evolving into something more dangerous, a nation of idiots led by rightwing war nutters.

"What in the heck does your goofy little touristy, anecdotal experience prove?"

at least as much as your wild generalisations and  wild statements :)  ever been outside of America?  if not, stay out of my face you inbred moron.

"Why don't you try googling on 'Japan' and 'xenophobia' and 'racism'? "

waahoo...japanese has a tradition of racism.  America has a tradition of slavery and war.  That is  _not_ something to be proud of, we have been involved in more wars than _any_ other country not excepting russia and china. 

"I'm absolutely certain that if you lived in the Middle East, people would bend over backwards to accommodate your cultural values and mores."

depends on the people, if I went to certain parts of america Id be beaten to death for being gay.  Just because one country is more open about their attitudes than another, does not mean the second country is less xenophobic.

"BTW, as long as we're talking about our trips abroad, I visited France and was *not* treated with courtesy."

I know, neither was I...bunch of bloody assholes IMO.

"millions and millions of Americans suffer hardships great and small on a daily basis to ensure that America stays her course towards becoming a more tolerant, inclusive nation."

thats the biggest load of crap Ive ever read you low piece of ignorant shite.  America is currently led by a bunch of rightwing christian fundamentalists hellbent on reliving the crusades.

"By and large, in our two-hundred odd years of existence, we have done more for civil rights and civil liberties than any other country in the world has managed to do in their centuries or millennia of existence.""

oh bullshit, comparing America to the worst of the other countries naturally gives us a feeling of superiority, try comparing it to the best instead.  Britian was battling slavery before america existed, New Zealand was the first country to give women the right to vote, jesus was a fucking arab you smear of donkeys urine. the list goes on and on...the only thing america has proven itself to be _really_ good at is teaching its young to spout the kind of nationalist crap that you are proving yourself to have mastered.

"Is it also 'proper' English to begin sentences with lower-case letters and omit apostrophes in contractions? "

nope, thats just habit built up from being a programmer for 25 years. 

"Why don't you just admit you're not 'anonymous american', but 'poseur american'?"

way to go sherlock, this must be an example of the great skills our schools teach their young.  Talk about proving yourself a sodding moron.

anonymous american
Thursday, September 11, 2003

After that post, it doesn't seem necessary to provide evidence that you are nuts, but:

---We do _not_ have the most heterogeneous population, britain has that spot.---


http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/uk.html
http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/us.html

according to the CIA:

UK:
English 81.5%, Scottish 9.6%, Irish 2.4%, Welsh 1.9%, Ulster 1.8%, West Indian, Indian, Pakistani, and other 2.8%

US:
white 77.1%, black 12.9%, Asian 4.2%, Amerindian and Alaska native 1.5%, native Hawaiian and other Pacific islander 0.3%, other 4% (2000)
note: a separate listing for Hispanic is not included because the US Census Bureau considers Hispanic to mean a person of Latin American descent (including persons of Cuban, Mexican, or Puerto Rican origin) living in the US who may be of any race or ethnic group (white, black, Asian, etc.)


--we do _not_ have the most liberal immigration laws of any major nation, we have one of the worst.--

compared to what other country? the US has THE most liberal immigration laws in the first world. the only places with more liberal immigration laws are countries that can't afford to enforce immigration laws.

also, it isn't becoming for an american to use the word "sodding."

dead horse
Thursday, September 11, 2003

also take note that the 70% "white" category can mean any of: italian/irish/english/lithuanian/polish/german/swedish/russian/argentine/spanish/french/israeli/norwegian/dutch/blah blah blah. 

my hometown in rural minnesota 8% of the students in my high school were mexican, 1% of them were east african (eritrea and somalia), and another 1% of them were hmong. 

claiming that britain is more heterogeneous is just blatantly incorrect.

dead horse
Thursday, September 11, 2003

"white 77.1%, black 12.9%, Asian 4.2%, Amerindian and Alaska native 1.5%, native Hawaiian and other Pacific islander 0.3%, other 4% (2000)"

thats actually not bad...


"the US has THE most liberal immigration laws in the first world."

this is an interesting read:

http://infoeagle.bc.edu/bc_org/avp/law/lwsch/journals/bclawr/41_4/01_TXT.htm

"also, it isn't becoming for an american to use the word "sodding." "

thats an example of your pride in the cultural diversity of America is it? how would you criticise me if I was speaking a different language altogether? ...way to shoot your own foot off genius...

"claiming that britain is more heterogeneous is just blatantly incorrect."

yeah, Ill give ya that one.

anonymous american
Thursday, September 11, 2003

"thats an example of your pride in the cultural diversity of America is it? how would you criticise me if I was speaking a different language altogether? ...way to shoot your own foot off genius..."

well, what i meant was americans sound really stupid using british slang, because they don't have british accents! the effect is akin to goofy WASP college girls who took a few spanish courses, and now all of the sudden say "buRRRRRRRRRRRREEEEEE TOH" when ordering mexican food. 

dead horse
Thursday, September 11, 2003

Dear Dead Feline previously known as anon,
                                                                  I do fully agree with you. It is disgraceful that the British didn't import tens of millions of slaves, most of whom would die on the passage, so that a hundred and fifty years later we can beat you on the diversity stakes for the number of Afro-Americans. Presumably these were the liberal immigration laws you were referring to.

                                                                The argument fiom racial groups on the census seems rather stupid anyway. As you pointed out, the classification white in the US includes Germans, Swedes, Mexicans, Italians and presumably a large number of mestizos. However the category of "English" - and to a lesser extent that of Scottish - will include vast numbers of East European Jews, Italians, Cypriots, Spaniards, Poles, gypsies, and even the increasing number of rich and not so rich Americans. If you do a census for France, nearly 40% of the category of French would be made of Italians and Spaniards who immigrated at the begining of the 20th century. As these are the leading supporters of LePen, you get the strange situation of a French National Front, the majority of whose members are of immigrant origin.

To claim that "liberal immigration laws" or the "cultural diversity" of a country are signs of tolerance is ridiculous anyway. Countries have large numbers of immigrants because they needed the workforce. You can have liberail immigration laws to let them in, as the States did until 1920, or you can severely limit legal immigration, as both the UK and the US have been doing for decades. The latter will in effect simply result in an increasing proportion of illegal immigrants, whether wetbacks crossing the Rio Grande in the States (who number millions) or Eastern Europeans, Sri Lankans and others who often pose as asylum seekers in order to fill the jobs that are waiting for them in the UK.

I'm terribly sorry incidentally, that you were badly treated in France. it is quite disgusting that you should be discriminated against just because you don't speak the language. I will spend a part of next summer telling my French friends how they can go to the US and just speak French with everybody, and they will get along just fine and dandy. Should increase US tourism income no end, because at the moment loads of them go to the UK and this doesn't happen.
                         

Stephen Jones
Thursday, September 11, 2003

I've been reading up on the Boer war.  Fascinating.  It seems we really are doomed to repeat history.

Ged Byrne
Thursday, September 11, 2003

Stephen Jones:

>> "Dear Dead Feline previously known as anon,"

Presumably you mean 'Dead Equine'.  Equine is horse.  Feline is cat.  But, of course, you already knew that being a product of the much vaunted British educational system.  At any rate, I'm not 'Dead Horse'.

*  *  *

>> "...the British didn't import tens of millions of slaves..."

Three points:
(1) Why would the British need to import slaves when there was an abundant supply of British children to man the sweatshops?

(2) The British didn't import their slaves - no need with the most powerful navy in the world.  You crazed bloodthirsty savages looked outward an onward to the "empire" not only for your slave labor, but to increase your markets.  Brilliant plan!  Commit genocide on vast populations, enslave the remaining indigenous peoples, and force them to pay for consumer goods produced in Merry ol' England.  Remember, the sun never set on the British death camp!

(3) Even if there were motivation to for Britons to import millions of slaves, where would you put them?  Americans have kidney stones bigger than the British Isles.

*  *  *

>> "Countries have large numbers of immigrants because they needed the workforce."

Umm, Japan is in dire need of an influx of foreign workers to supplement their workforce.  (Please consult WTO reports on the subject.)  Yet, when faced with the choice between the collapse of their economy, and letting foreign immigrants into their borders, their racism and xenophobia compel them to choose collapse. 

*  *  *

>> "...it is quite disgusting that you should be discriminated against just because you don't speak the language. [French]"

Implicit in you sarcasm is the assumption that knowing English is somehow akin to knowing French.  Why would anyone waste his time learning the language of some pissant nation like France?  It is strange irony that English is the Lingua Franca, and it behooves any internationalist to know it.  The only payoff in learning French is that one can impress and amaze his friends by speaking entirely through his nasal passages.  French is not a language - it is a party trick.  [Note to the French:  You are no longer a world power; haven't been for quite some time.  Now please go and find somebody to surrender to - perhaps Fiji.  Don't worry, we'll be there to liberate your cheese-eating, wine-swilling asses.]

anon
Thursday, September 11, 2003

anon -

I suppose that having nuclear weapons is no longer sufficient to qualify as a world power.

Please demonstrate your proficiency in any of Russian, Chinese, Hindi, or Arabic. Surely one of Russia, China, India, or Pakistan must qualify.

If you believe that economic power supersedes military power, demonstrable ability in German or Japanese will also be acceptable.

Devil's Advocate
Thursday, September 11, 2003

--If you believe that economic power supersedes military power, demonstrable ability in German or Japanese will also be acceptable.--

Yeah, if I wanted to speak the language of HITLER!!!
Also, george bush is kind of like HITLER, and so are the proponents of "extreme programming methodology." H1-B visas are a huge threat, but not as huge as HITLER was. 

is the thread over yet?

godwin
Thursday, September 11, 2003

---"Americans have kidney stones bigger than the British Isles."----

And, it seems, 'arseholes bigger than our sewage systems.

Stephen Jones
Thursday, September 11, 2003

"H1-B visas are a huge threat, but not as huge as HITLER was. "

I always kind of liked hitler, I mean _sure_ he had a few personality quirks, and was kind of mean to some people but OTOH his moustache was kind of handsome..

FullNameRequired
Thursday, September 11, 2003

Godwin: clearly you are aware that Godwin's Law does not apply when comparisons to Hitler are intentionally made in an attempt to end a thread.

Alyosha`
Thursday, September 11, 2003

"Godwin: clearly you are aware that Godwin's Law does not apply when comparisons to Hitler are intentionally made in an attempt to end a thread."

Seems to have worked though (check date of previous post relative to this).

Jim Rankin
Monday, September 15, 2003

*  Recent Topics

*  Fog Creek Home