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Sundries
...a sweatshop of moxie

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Things Change

(A longer blogpost than usual, so I used it for Sunday, since I may get busy then. Scroll down for a more light-hearted piece for Saturday)

This is a followup opinion piece to the blogpost on school vouchers below.

I have some unfinished business to mention, regarding schools in general and school choice, which I thought you might want to read.

You know, my late maternal great-grandmother told me that almost all ideas are eventually recycled, after at first being discarded as antiquated or obsolete.

The variable is time, not taste.

And she was right.

Let me tell you her story.

Born in Austria in the year 1900, to a traditional family in Vienna, her father had attended a rigourous boarding school, which was later attended by Ludwig Wittgenstein and a few saplings of the House of Habsburg.

There, he went through the usual bullying, and was not allowed to bathe by the strict religious order which ran it (guilty touches of the body, presumably), but otherwise had a fairly good time, where he made many friends.

Her mother, like many well-heeled ladies of the time, had been educated at home by a slew of tutors, alongside her other sisters.

So, when it came to pass that her daughter, my great-grandmother, was to be educated, she had a kind of fusion education -- fusing both educational trajectories of her parents.

From the age of 8 to 13, she was privately educated at home alongside her sister, Antoinette and brother, Reinhold. She was the middle child, and Reinhold the youngest, but they all learned the same things, at the same time.

The niceties of modern-day educators, which stress the developmental stage of each child's intellect, was obviously a long way off in the future.

At the dinner table, her father would question his children about what they had learnt, and woe-betide the child who received bad marks -- they were smacked with a ruler by their head tutor.

They had one month off from their turorials, in July, and that's it.

Even in that month, they were not free from certain educational responsibilities, as their father (a naval officer), would assign a list of books which had to be read that month, and discussed at the dinner table en famille, yet again.

These included Homer, Shakespeare, Kleist, Galen even.

Even though this might make many children today a bit apprehensive, my great-grandmother said his questions and their responses were always the most engaging times of the day for all parties concerned, and they had rollicking good memories of the time years later (as can be seen by her vivid accounts to me, 70 years hence).

Her mother, a more restrained, but cultivated lady taught her brood, painting and music:

The great love of hers, painting, especially during the summer months, when the three children would place their easels alongside hers, and they would "compete" who could paint the prettiest landscape that day.

(I have seen a snapshot, which looks like they themselves are characters in a painting: with their knee-high white dresses with red sashes, Eton collars, and Vionnet hats of the Edwardian Age. I can't believe that people ever dressed like this, but they did)

Could be my family, but it's not

Later, they starred in a family quartet with violins, cellos, and the young, broody Reinhold at the piano.

This is how people spent their time before the age of manufactured entertainment, of radio, television, and film:

In concerts of their own making.

When she turned 13, in the fateful year just before the start of the Great War which turned this bucolic existence upside-down FOREVER for all concerned, her parents decided to risk sending both their daughter's to a convent school high in the Tyrolean mountains.

I saw a school report once.

Though they didn't see fit to teach the girls algebra, she learnt things which even by the high educational standards of my school, would've been considered accomplished.

Subjects like elocution (including oratory, private and public!), rhetoric, logic, and history of philosophy. And, best of all, astronomy.

Astronomy, mind you.

I wonder what they thought the girls would need that for?

(Years later, she told my mother she once took her brother's books for his Naval entrance exam, and found herself completely at home in the section known as "Navigation". Meanwhile I, her Oxford-educated descendant, can't even tell the difference between a black hole and a white dwarf)

In short, she received a thoroughly Edwardian private education, but one which would not be so far removed from a modern home-schooled child's experience.

Or that of a private school pupil.

Of course, by the time she herself had children, she sent them all aged 8-9 to boarding school, because private tutoring at school was seen as very, very antique, even backwards.

For the modern child, it was thought that as wide as an experience of people was the optimum education -- even though, it must be admitted, it can't have been that wide, in exclusive boarding schools where the students all came from more-or-less, the same circumstances.

But, quoth great-grandmum to me many years later, it was better than just seeing your siblings' faces all day! Every day!

...or was it?

She was a lady who wasn't particularly intellectual.

Her spelling was, until the end of her days, unique.

She loved Shakespeare, but never read novels, sticking to her prayer books in mother-of-pearl volumes which I sometimes take out today, and just gaze at, admiringly.

But she had a highly-developed artistic sense, and a fine grasp of logic, unsurprisingly given her above-mentioned education.

I don't doubt the rigours of a school's curricula, but I doubt that she would've been better served had she attended school, aged 8, alongside perfect strangers.

In some countries, there is no choice at all, and that has come about for the dual reasons of governmental strictures about public education being mandatory for all, but also the firm belief that private education (whether in the home, or in elite or religious schools), was not the way to go.

There are many European countries where there is almost NO private school education.

These include the Scandinavian countries, especially Norway.

In Germany, there are a few private or boarding schools, but they are very much the exception, and even seen as somewhat "weird".

In France, I believe they have been illegal for many decades. The State is the only provider of education in France, the better to give an equitable, and unreligious (laïque) education to their citizens.

CORRECTION: France has private schools, but please read the comments for the statute in its laws which regulates religious schools, which of course, are private.

The leading private school education countries are of course, Britain and Switzerland, and unsurprisingly, both these countries are in great demand because of the availability of these schools.

For many years, certain voices who oppose these schools, especially in class-conscious Britain, have tried to abolish them, attempting to chuck into the bin the heralded colleges of Eton, Winchester, and Harrow, because they were sore thumbs to the idea of equality.

As long as these schools existed, there could be no true equality, even though the kinds of people who attend them, do so because of intellectual accomplishments, rather than just size of family wallet.

In the United States, where private schools were the norm long before public schools, this rooted itself deeply into the ethos of the nation.

Separation of Church and State made them almost invaluable to the continued existence of communities such as the Catholic or Jewish ones, which otherwise might have lost their religious precepts, and customs (which are not just a question of a quick prayer to start off the day), if not for their presence.

This is why in America, I feel that Americans have come to think that private schooling is more independent, than the mass-think schooling of public education.

Think about it:

Greater individual emphasis of smaller classroom sizes, and specifically-tailored curricula, to that of the sausage-factory atmosphere of many public schools, some of which to my horror, I find out have graduating class sizes in the hundreds, if not thousands.

(My graduating class was 24, which was considered positively obscene, but we had a sudden rush of Japanese and American girls the year before)

There are so many differences between America and the rest of the world, educationally, that I would need a series of posts to elucidate them to you.

Here's one quick example:

Which is the only developed country in the world which doesn't have ANY kind of public school uniform, especially at the lower level, mandatory for its students?

The United States.

UPDATE: A reader corrects this by saying that present-day Germany, and many other countries he suggests, do not have public school uniforms. This misunderstanding is corrected by adding the simple word "EVER" to my statement above.

Until the end of WWII, German students had a uniform dress code and wore the cap shown below of Berlin schoolboys in the 1930's, still in use in many European countries, especially in Scandinavia, to commemorate one's graduation.

Let me repeat: The United States is the only developed country which has NEVER EVER had a nationally mandated uniform for its public schools...in its history.

This is not a big point in my blogpost, but since a reader targeted it, I thought it best to emphasise my point here.



Public schools have recently adopted uniforms, but it's very much a question of each school determining that need, rather than a nationally-enforced rule.

This may well be one of the attractions to parents of the uniform-clad private schools of the US, which give the greater impression of discipline, which SOMETIMES translates into real discipline.

America is so different from the rest of the world in so many ways, but I think one of its salient characteristics is that so many middle to middle-upper-class kids, and even the children of the truly wealthy, still attend public school.

We've all heard of Beverly Hills High, which has counterparts in many toney areas around the US.

Coral Gables Senior High and the smaller ones in Pinecrest, being situated in the two best neighbourhoods of Miami, would be recognisable in this category.

It is this egalitarian streak which keeps public schools functioning in the land where the private is still preferred and seen as more independent, as the public.

Why do the well-off of the US do this?

(Send their children to public schools, when they could easily send them to pirvate ones, exclusively)

Primarily, because those schools cull their kids from like-minded neighbours, and whose property taxes assure a well-kitted out public school.

And because most middle-class Americans themselves went to public schools, therefore, giving them the impression that this is their "default" educational venue.

That is not true, say, for many in the South American, Afrian, or Asian middle-classes.

In India, if you don't get your child into an English-speaking private academy, like the elite Cathedral School in Bombay, which I believe are called "convent schools" in general, they're seen as screwed for life.

In Peru, your child goes to Franklin Delano Roosevelt school, or else.

In Argentina, they better go to Sacre Coeur, or Alexander von Humboldt.

In Brazil, the land where the private school is god, São Bento or the American School in Gavea, etc.

Public school is for the rag and bobtail of your country, and not to be trusted educationally or otherwise.

Many people think that "Emerging market" nations may lack the high standards that others have by history or tradition, but that couldn't be farther away from the truth.

If anything, they have too many standards, but they just choose not to apply that to the vast majority of their people, thinking that would make them, the wealthier classes, more common, and after all, they believe what differentiates people from "rabble", is their uncommon life approach.

It is this targetting of excellence that America has, by and large, avoided.

And I believe this is what educational purists who only like a public school education, see as being under fire.

The perception of equality married to the availability of excellence for our children.

When you retreat from that, you are in essence rejecting that perception, and taking away from the excellence, since fewer bodies means less funding.

This is a cultural argument, which only time will overhaul.

Which brings us back to what my great-grandmother always used to say: Almost everything once thought demodé, will reappear one day, revamped.

This grand old dame, who so resembled her exact contemporary, the late Queen Mother, physically, had what might be considered a spotty education by today's standards.

But with her parent's careful guidance, she was able to hold her own in any salon around the world, and did.

Her private tutoring, which she rejected for her own, is now back en vogue, with homeschooling.

The children of the underprivileged are fighting to get into pricey schools in the US, and their supposed champions are fighting for them not to be able to.

I wonder what she would've made of that, had I brought that to her attention before her death in 1994?

I am guessing she would have been bemused, and perhaps a little disapproving.

And then I would've said, "But, you didn't turn out so badly, did you, Omi?".

To which she might've rested her prayer book for a second, and said,

"No, perhaps I didn't. We didn't have a choice, though."

True.

But then, of course, it's having choice in life that is key.

13 Comments:

  • You get your facts wrong.
    The US is not the only country w/o school uniforms, for example in Germany they are unknown (and I suspect in dozens of other countries).

    France has a lot of private schools, and they are funded by the government. So unlike in the US parents who wish to private school do not to have to pay double.

    Could you go through the trouble of checking facts. America is not as unique as you have us believe.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Jan 07, 07:04:00 pm GMT-5  

  • anonymous, pull in your claws. Sheesh!

    "Meanwhile I, her Oxford-educated descendant, can't even tell the difference between a black hole and a white dwarf" - Now, come on, Victoria. You don't mean that. I, for one, don't buy it!

    What is "brood painting"?

    Loved the photo - they look happy! So many photos from that time - the portraits - show stiff, unsmiling people. I recall the unsmiling, arrogant pose of young Adolf. Have you seen that photograph?

    The less involvement the Feds have with public education, the better educated American children will be. The education of children is a state affair; it needs to remain such. Otherwise we will fall prey to the same idiocies the Feds impose upon us, now, with no recourse whatsoever. Ammend your state constitutions. Be free!

    I'm just sayin'.

    ; )

    It's nice your great-grand-mum took the time to relate her life stories to you. My grandfather, a disagreeable grouch born in 1905, only related his Spanish Flu memory. Out of all his childhood, that was it. So I can picture the young grouch, sitting on a curb in Philadelphia, unable to rise to his feet, feverish, coughing, barely able to breath, until a stranger picked him up and took him to a hospital.

    This from a man who played soccer in South America in his youth, was a travelling salesman all his adult life. Just that tale. *sigh*

    Write On, Victoria! :D

    By Anonymous benning, at Sat Jan 07, 08:13:00 pm GMT-5  

  • You get your facts wrong.
    The US is not the only country w/o school uniforms, for example in Germany they are unknown (and I suspect in dozens of other countries).


    I accept the correction.

    But in point of fact, it's very easy to alter what I wrote by using one tiny word:

    Ever

    The United States is the only developed country where uniforms HAVE NEVER EVER in its history been nationally enforced or mandated for all schools.

    Germany had until the WWII, a nationally mandated uniform code of dress for children, which included the sailor caps still used in graduating classes in Scandinavia and other locales, today.

    That's what I mean.

    France has a lot of private schools, and they are funded by the government. So unlike in the US parents who wish to private school do not to have to pay double.

    My point was strained here.

    My emphasis was on non-laïque schools in France (which I mentioned too much in passing).

    This from Wikipedia, which is the focus of my point:

    In France, the state recognizes no religion and does not fund religious education. However, the state subsidizes private teaching establishments, including religious ones, under strict conditions of not forcing religion courses on students and not discriminating against students according to religion. An exception is the area of Alsace-Moselle where, for historical reasons (it was ruled by Germany when this System was instituted in the rest of France), the state supports public education in some religions mostly in accord with the German model.

    When my parents were researching for a good language school, they were told the British school in Paris was a good half-way point for me -- which is obviously private, and like my school, catered to diplomatic, or foreign society in said country.

    That I forgot this detail, was ridiculous.

    (Ultimately, I attended a school in Switzerland)

    Could you go through the trouble of checking facts. America is not as unique as you have us believe.

    Until then, I had no problems with your comment.

    It's perfectly fine to correct me, and in doing so, to help me write a better blogpost.

    But your sour attitude in general, and your specific sneering attitude towards the United States specifically, is your only motivation for posting this.

    Please, do not come here again if this is what you have to offer.

    Cheers,
    Victoria

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Sat Jan 07, 09:11:00 pm GMT-5  

  • anonymous, pull in your claws. Sheesh!

    It's odd, isn't it?

    It's like he or she has unfinished business with me from some past encounter, because anonymous targeted just a tiny section of my unending blogpost, as if he or she knew alll about me before.

    Weird.

    What is "brood painting"?

    Ah! Thanks for the heads-up.

    That should have a comma after brood.

    IOW, "she taught her kids, painting". ;)

    Loved the photo - they look happy!

    If you hover over it, you'll see it's not my own.

    But they do look happy! Especially the Benjamin of the family sitting in between mamma, and sis. :)

    So many photos from that time - the portraits - show stiff, unsmiling people.

    Well, that was the custom of the time.

    That you didn't show your teeth, because dignity and bad orthodontics determined otherwise. ;)

    I recall the unsmiling, arrogant pose of young Adolf. Have you seen that photograph?

    Hmm, yes, I think so.

    Is that the one where he is carefully dressed in a suit, with hair brushed, but with burning blue eyes, and crossed arms in front of him?

    Very "Boys of Brazil". ;)

    The less involvement the Feds have with public education, the better educated American children will be. The education of children is a state affair; it needs to remain such. Otherwise we will fall prey to the same idiocies the Feds impose upon us, now, with no recourse whatsoever.

    The separation of powers between the Feds and the States is the ONE point that foreigners never truly understand, no matter how much it is mentioned to them.

    I told my mother once:

    Just think of it as 50 countries in one big country. Each with their own prerogatives, customs, and particular regional histories.

    When Katrina happened, these foreign misunderstandings seem to centre around the perception that the Federal Government's powers override first and foremost, the local or State ones.

    As all Americans know, they necessarily do not.

    Heck there was a Civil War fought about that...

    Ammend your state constitutions. Be free!

    I'm just sayin'.

    ; )


    Oh we will! I'm sure Jeb will put up the matter to the vote later this year.

    It's nice your great-grand-mum took the time to relate her life stories to you.

    Remember my interest in history, though.

    I'm sure she didn't with all her descendants. ;(

    My grandfather, a disagreeable grouch born in 1905, only related his Spanish Flu memory.

    Oh man, that's sad.

    Care to share that?

    Out of all his childhood, that was it.

    Without sounding judgemental, I'd just like to say that many men especially are like that.

    I know maybe 2 or 3 stories from my dad's school days.

    And none are happy ones...

    He just doesn't open up, and neither did his dad.

    So I can picture the young grouch, sitting on a curb in Philadelphia, unable to rise to his feet, feverish, coughing, barely able to breath, until a stranger picked him up and took him to a hospital.

    Aww. Sad though.

    This from a man who played soccer in South America in his youth, was a travelling salesman all his adult life. Just that tale. *sigh*

    WOW! What a loss. I see what you mean.

    Write On, Victoria! :D

    I'll try! :)

    Thanks for your comment, Benning. It made me happier. :)

    Cheers,
    Victoria

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Sat Jan 07, 09:22:00 pm GMT-5  

  • But your sour attitude in general, and your specific sneering attitude towards the United States specifically, is your only motivation for posting this.

    Please, do not come here again if this is what you have to offer.


    Oh, man! I love when you talk like that! You are overwhelming.
    Even though vowing to remain silent and be thought a fool rather than open my mouth and remove all doubt, I had to compliment you. Again.

    Schools? My opinion, shared with many is remove the attorneys, reestablish discipline, parental responsibility for their children, teacher authority in their classroom, and some form of teacher accountability for pay and benefits given. When I was young the Principals did a good job taking care of those, except there was never a breath of attorneys haunting our halls. Foreign Concept.


    Your story, it's so good, so right and so telling of the hopes most people have for their kids and the means toward their end.
    I'm back and talkin'! No, I will try to control myself.

    By Blogger Paul, at Sun Jan 08, 01:06:00 am GMT-5  

  • So, no opera I guess?

    By Blogger JSU, at Sun Jan 08, 02:07:00 am GMT-5  

  • Oh, man! I love when you talk like that! You are overwhelming.

    As long as you're dispassionate and not personal, you can stand your ground easily in life.

    Although in real life, I've been told you can see my hazel eyes change a very dusky green when I'm angered. ;)

    Even though vowing to remain silent and be thought a fool rather than open my mouth and remove all doubt, I had to compliment you. Again.

    No worries. Thanks!

    Schools? My opinion, shared with many is remove the attorneys, reestablish discipline, parental responsibility for their children, teacher authority in their classroom, and some form of teacher accountability for pay and benefits given.

    Yes. But also raise their salaries.

    I am a firm believer of overpaying for teachers, as long as you get to test them, and have a student evaluation of them, similar to what we in Universities have with our profs.

    When I was young the Principals did a good job taking care of those, except there was never a breath of attorneys haunting our halls. Foreign Concept.

    Not too sure there are that many now, BUT I agree with you that there is an expectation of lawyers lurking around the corner, ready to grind these administrators into the ground, at the least provocation.

    Sometimes the threat of something is greater than the actuality.

    Your story, it's so good, so right and so telling of the hopes most people have for their kids and the means toward their end.

    Yes, and see, my great-grandmother may not have agreed with me about homeschooling.

    IE, that sometimes, it's the way to go, and it doesn't harm the development of a child's intellect. Au contraire.

    I'm back and talkin'! No, I will try to control myself.

    Go on. Have fun! ;)

    Cheers,
    Victoria

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Sun Jan 08, 02:10:00 pm GMT-5  

  • So, no opera I guess?

    No Fille du Regiment THIS weekend, no.

    But I hope to go sometime!

    I'm glad you mentioned this, JSU, as it has given me the opportunity to once again, work at my mother about the topic.

    She doesn't have to be "oiled" like my dad does, about things (because his first answer is always "no"), but it's not that easy right now either. ;)

    I'll keep you informed!

    I'm off to Palm Beach for the day, I think. If it's not too cold...

    Cheers,
    Victoria

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Sun Jan 08, 02:12:00 pm GMT-5  

  • "We've all heard of Beverly Hills High, which has counterparts in many toney areas around the US."

    I went to one of those kind of high schools (in my case Santa Monica High School).

    It also was one of the largest and top-rated public high schools in thes country (my graduating class (class of 87) was 890 alone, the total campus population was around 3000 (at the time it was a 3-year high school). When my father attended the same school it was at the height of the boomers and the school population was closer to 4500 (and it was a 4-year institution).

    I had many great teachers, and some time-wasters. Our class had dozens of folks accepted at Ivy league schools and the more prestigious UCs (I recall one counselor crowing that we had more students from our class accepted at Yale than any other public school in the country).

    Also at the time they didn't admit people from outside of Santa Monica or Malibu (officially, many people faked their residence or 'lived' with cousins or uncles to get into Samohi).

    The end result was that most of the students were either affluent or really committed to attending (as having to commit fraud to attend will do).

    I had a two time emmy winner in my driver's ed class (how many other students get to say 'grats on the emmy last night' in class) and the children of stars and execs (I had a crush on John Laroquettes daughter, but that's a different story, and she was a bit of a stoner, as many of the execs/stars kids were, even in Junior High there were cokeheads).

    It was still boring, most of the classes slow, even the top level classes weren't as challenging as they could have been. Like any high school it was full of cliques, though with a school that size, it was easy to avoid or change cliques at a whim.

    If you chose to be, you were well prepared for college had you attended Samohi.

    But looking at it now, it doesn't make any sense to me that homeowners (most of whom are childless in Santa Monica) should subsidize the educating the progeny of the rich and famous.

    Lately Samohi has changed dramatically. Because the city has aged and Malibu built it's own high school finally (the school district is the Santa Monica/Malibu Unified School District, even though Malibu and Santa Monica are miles apart), in the mid 90s they allowed minority students from outside of the district to attend (in an effort to 'balance' the school, and for 'diversity').

    The results have been predictable, and fewer of those execs and stars still send their kids to Samohi.

    The real reason for the change was that they wanted to maintain huge budgets from a city that no longer had a school age population that justified such a large public school system (and the ultra-liberal city council has been exceedingly happy to oblige by continuing to fund the system at a high level despite the dirth of students residing in the city). Rather than downsizing the district, reducing it's footprint and selling off valuable real estate, they imported students from the overcrowded neighborhoods of the L.A. Unified School District next door.

    To me that says everything about how public schools work, and how the interest of the district often trumps the interest of the local populace.

    And these rich execs/industry types don't take it well if you suggest that their precious public schools are maligned.

    By Blogger XWL, at Mon Jan 09, 11:20:00 am GMT-5  

  • I went to one of those kind of high schools (in my case Santa Monica High School).

    Ooh, a California lad. Can I touch your granola head of hair? ;)

    (Thanks for posting this lengthy and VERY interesting reply, XWL! I appreciate that)

    BTW, I think SMHS was where Michael Medved and David Wallechinsky went to, no?

    Medved later wrote a book called, "Whatever happened to the Class of '67", if memory serves.

    It also was one of the largest and top-rated public high schools in thes country (my graduating class (class of 87) was 890 alone,

    Now, I know it's not all 890 in the same classroom, but that figure is astounding.

    Your dad's, unbelievable.

    the total campus population was around 3000 (at the time it was a 3-year high school). When my father attended the same school it was at the height of the boomers and the school population was closer to 4500 (and it was a 4-year institution).

    9th, 10th, 11th, 12th?

    I take it 9th grade has been bumped down to "Middle School" or Junior High as it was?

    7th, 8th, 9th?

    I had many great teachers, and some time-wasters.

    Me too!

    The difference is that the time-wasters turn-around was much quicker.

    They got the sack easier in a private institution.

    Our class had dozens of folks accepted at Ivy league schools and the more prestigious UCs (I recall one counselor crowing that we had more students from our class accepted at Yale than any other public school in the country).

    You see! Medved went to Yale too, where he, Dubya and Kerry were contemporaries...

    Also at the time they didn't admit people from outside of Santa Monica or Malibu (officially, many people faked their residence or 'lived' with cousins or uncles to get into Samohi).

    Samohi. Heh, I love it. :)

    Yeah, some people do that to attend Coral Gables SHS too.

    And because of bus-sing, they have a very varied section of students, moreso, I take it than Samohi or Bevery Hills HS.

    The end result was that most of the students were either affluent or really committed to attending (as having to commit fraud to attend will do).

    Yes. :)

    I had a two time emmy winner in my driver's ed class (how many other students get to say 'grats on the emmy last night' in class) and the children of stars and execs (I had a crush on John Laroquettes daughter, but that's a different story, and she was a bit of a stoner,

    So is her old man...

    as many of the execs/stars kids were, even in Junior High there were cokeheads).

    Dude, unless you went to school with Scott Baio, I'm not interested.

    It was still boring, most of the classes slow, even the top level classes weren't as challenging as they could have been.

    Here's a dirty secret -- even classes at Oxford are slow, and boring.

    What having a sterling educational atmosphere does, is that it becomes the exception, and not the rule, especially with self-motivated students.

    Like any high school it was full of cliques, though with a school that size, it was easy to avoid or change cliques at a whim.

    OHHHH. Look at that. A positive about big schools.

    I would never have known that if you hadn't said so.

    Very nice, thanks!

    If you chose to be, you were well prepared for college had you attended Samohi.

    "If you chose to be"

    But looking at it now, it doesn't make any sense to me that homeowners (most of whom are childless in Santa Monica) should subsidize the educating the progeny of the rich and famous.

    Ah yes? Care to expound on that?

    Lately Samohi has changed dramatically. Because the city has aged and Malibu built it's own high school finally (the school district is the Santa Monica/Malibu Unified School District, even though Malibu and Santa Monica are miles apart), in the mid 90s they allowed minority students from outside of the district to attend (in an effort to 'balance' the school, and for 'diversity').

    There you go. I guess that's true of all elite public schools, then.

    The results have been predictable, and fewer of those execs and stars still send their kids to Samohi.

    Interesting.

    I wonder what excuse they will give, as they surely would never cop to being snobs.

    The real reason for the change was that they wanted to maintain huge budgets from a city that no longer had a school age population that justified such a large public school system (and the ultra-liberal city council has been exceedingly happy to oblige by continuing to fund the system at a high level despite the dirth of students residing in the city).

    Ugh.

    Rather than downsizing the district, reducing it's footprint and selling off valuable real estate, they imported students from the overcrowded neighborhoods of the L.A. Unified School District next door.

    LA "Unified" School District.

    Sounds like a bloody church name.

    To me that says everything about how public schools work, and how the interest of the district often trumps the interest of the local populace.

    Yes...

    And these rich execs/industry types don't take it well if you suggest that their precious public schools are maligned.

    What a link!

    I note that Cathy Seipp was provoking the vein pop-out Larry O'Donnell, by goading him on, but his reaction, dour, humourless, fanatical, could be the very blueprint of almost every conversation I have had, with very liberal people, about a beloved social welfare or entitlement topic of theirs.

    It's scary.

    Fortunately, I carry verbal mace.

    Once again, thanks for the lengthy and very elucidating post, XWL. :)

    Cheers,
    Victoria

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Mon Jan 09, 12:02:00 pm GMT-5  

  • And thank you for your lengthy response to my lengthy reply.

    How many other high schools have a wikipedia entry?

    As far as diversity, when I attended it wasn't 'diverse'(about 80% white, which reflected the community from which the students were drawn). Now the school is more reflective of the region as a whole, though the city remains about the same as before.

    Also Santa Monica has an aging population, with many Double Income No Kids households (Dinks), and in California as in most states the primary funding for schools come from property taxes, which is why I find it strange that homeowners are expected subsidize the education of the children of people who could afford any private school their children could get into. The school district has cynically taken in all the transfer students they can so as to justify growing budgets, it's cynical, manipulative and dishonest, and has nothing to do about exposing kids to more 'diversity'. I don't know what more to say on that other than just because LAUSD is horrible doesn't mean that it is the SMUSD's responsibility to act as a safety valve for our larger neighbor.

    And no, didn't go to school with Scott Baio, but I did go to school with Chad Lowe (does that count for something?)

    (and the wikipedia entry has a list of some of the famous alumni, many, many bratpackers)

    By Blogger XWL, at Mon Jan 09, 03:44:00 pm GMT-5  

  • At the end of my comment it said:

    "Could you go through the trouble of checking facts. America is not as unique as you have us believe."

    You replied:

    "Until then, I had no problems with your comment.

    It's perfectly fine to correct me, and in doing so, to help me write a better blogpost.

    But your sour attitude in general, and your specific sneering attitude towards the United States specifically, is your only motivation for posting this.

    Please, do not come here again if this is what you have to offer."

    I am surprised at your answer. When I wrote the comment I was a first time visitor to your blog, started reading it, and believing a lot of what you said, until I came across some facts that I happen to know.

    I do not know what you mean by "sneering" attitude towards the US. I do not have such an attitude, and you would certainly agree if you knew me.(For example I recently offended a French guy by referring to New York City as the center of civilization - does that sound very sneering toward the US?) I just think it is a fallacy to believe that the US is very different, and therefore in some special sense unique, as in apart from other countries. If you just imply that the US is unique, as any other country is unique I agree.

    About your latest corrections I do not know if further comments of mine are welcome. Just as a matter of fact, in Germany, de jure, secondary education is a state matter. Therefore I doubt that a nationally enforced standard existed. I did not fact-check the second one, but for a federal country it seems highly unlikely. After all Germany is a country where states even have the right to sign international treaties, and Bavaria to the present day maintains a Bavarian citizenship (which Bavarians have in addition to the national one).

    About the only country ever....
    Can I ask you how you know that? It is extremly hard to know such statements. But easy to disprove them.

    A good country to pick for such claims is always Switzerland. It is a fiercly democratic and local- control-country. (Where more citizens bear arms per capita btw than in the US). Do you think a democracy of more than 700 years ever had school uniforms nationwide?

    I didn't mean to offend you I was just "sour", because I was disappointed. I thought I could trust you on matters I know nothing about, and now, well that belief has been undermined.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Jan 23, 09:20:00 pm GMT-5  

  • I just think it is a fallacy to believe that the US is very different, and therefore in some special sense unique, as in apart from other countries. If you just imply that the US is unique, as any other country is unique I agree.

    I thank you for your considered, and lengthy reply.

    However, I have to make one point about your reply.

    It seems you are very happy to point out the uniqueness found in places like Bavaria and Switzerland, but when it comes to the uniqueness of the United States, which is incontrovertible due to its specific national history and cultural tapestry, you become prickly.

    It seems to me, that something offends you about saying that the United States is unique.

    I have the impression that, as an example, if I state in passing that the United States is the only developed country which uses the imperial instead of the metric system, somehow you would take that in a fashion I do not mean it.

    Namely, it offends you in some way that I am mentioning this unique, to use this word for the umpteenth time, fact about the US.

    Because I feel you think I am saying that unique equates to better.

    And I am not.

    That is entirely your reading of it.

    Although, may I say that in my example, I have the distinct impression that you would find the metric system better than the imperial system any day, and would not hesitate to so reply.

    How do I know if the United States is the only country to never ever have had a nationally mandated school uniform system?

    Very simple -- not only have I visited all the developed countries, and verified this fact with my own eye, I am also an historian by degree, and have read extensively on the topic of schooling comparisons.

    However, I may be wrong. Refuting what I have said wouldn't trouble me.

    I invite anyone to do so, without problems whatsoever.

    Bloggers are here to exchange ideas, not to proclaim from on high.

    About your latest corrections I do not know if further comments of mine are welcome.

    That entirely depends on you.

    You will find me a very civil person, even to people whose viewpoints I disagree with vehemently.

    But, being human, I have very little patience with certain people who only post negatively.

    It seems you have put me on a very high pedestal, and one which is entirely your own fault.

    I neither asked you to do so, nor do I present myself as an authority on anything.

    That's very much all I have to say to you now.

    Cheers,
    Victoria

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Thu Jan 26, 03:19:00 am GMT-5  

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