Romantic Anglophiles and America’s Sorry School System

I have been thinking about the term “educational system,” and people have a tendency to say, “I am a product of ________ educational system.” It could be a national educational system. It could be a local educational system. It could be a state educational system. If you moved around a lot, it could be international.

My point is that unless you know the person’s schooling background, you have no idea what he or she is talking about. And even so, how big is that system a part of? A local homeschooling co-op? The New York Public Schools? Richard Taunton Sixth Form College?

But when we say we are a product of such a system, our audience gives it heft and weight, as if it has meaning when our audience really doesn’t have a clue what we are talking about.

Why am I bringing this up? Well, every so often, I get sucked into the Romantic Anglophilia sites, and I usually end up regretting it. Anglotopia published an article that was, in and of itself, good for what it was trying to accomplish. It was a surface comparison of primary schools of the U.K. and the U.S., and it made itself clear that it was generalizing and acknowledged that different schools had different policies. I have no issue with this article.

The problem came in the Facebook comment section…where evil usually lurks.  People took an article about uniforms, recess, and lunch/school dinners and turned it into the “Let’s bash the American educational system!” party.

Jerk 3

Jerk 1

Look at the number of likes, folks.

Jerk 2

So, we have two women who they said they went to school in the U.K. and in their snobby way extolled the “system’s” superiority, and, a bunch of Benedict Cumberbitches, including a fair share of Americans I am sure, who are falling for this dream education hook, line, and sinker.  And we had one gentleman who was a product of our “school system” who wishes we had the U.K.’s.

Well, color me impressed.  You went to school in the U.K.?  Shall I buff your shoes with my hair, since I am nothing but a Savage Colonial?  I know.  We’ll get the guy who wishes we had your school system to do it.

Now, for the reality. Education is patchy no matter where you live. There are good and bad schools, and British parents worry just as much about as American parents about their children’s curricula, standardized tests, homework, and futures. We are all in this same boat, and we have to remember that.

Meanwhile, if you ask The Boffin about this educational experience, he would give you a mixed review at best. While he has appreciated his education, he has always maintained that he learned more outside of school and that the biggest misconception about British education is that you can only learn innovation in university. Innovation comes with learning how to make do with little. Formal education had nothing to do with his achievements in innovation.

So, we are very happy educating The Sprog here and do not feel like she is missing out on anything by being in the States. I can certainly do a separate post about why it works for her over here, and American education does not take away from what is good about education in the U.K. The reverse holds true as well, so there is no need to tear the United States down to make the U.K. look good.

I can understand the frustration of dealing with a school designed for the masses when elements do not work for your children. But is it necessary to put halos around another country and what you believe to be this homogenous happy system based upon hearsay?

Maybe I need to open a Romantic Anglophile Rehab Center.

30 thoughts on “Romantic Anglophiles and America’s Sorry School System

  1. This is me hitting Like multiple times. The irony of all this romanticizing is the the current government (I’m writing from the UK in case you’re reading this and don’t know that) is working like hell to convince us all that the school system is failing and it’s all the fault of [fill in the blank–usually the teachers or school administrators] and the answer is to start academies, which have a very mixed track record themselves. It’s all about privatization and–oh, don’t get me started. Anyway, ask the UK government and the school system here is collapsing under its own weight.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I know. Same old song and dance. Of course, we are failing our children here too with Common Core, too many standardized tests, income disparities, being behind everyone else in math and science, etc. Yet somehow, we still manage to educate children into productive members of society. Hmmm….

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I remember a survey in the US that showed some massive percentage of parents felt the schools were falling apart but that their children’s school was good. I may be bad with numbers, but I do see a problem there.

        Although having said that, the problems you mention are, I think, real and need addressing. And maybe we could do a better job of that if we’d stop getting all hysterical about it.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. AAAAAAAARGH! I typed out a lengthy response and then it disappeared. Let me try to reconstruct it but it might be a bit rambling second time around.

    My kids were previously in a very good state (as in publicly funded) school in Scotland but it was remote and rural so broader educational opportunities were limited. Now they are being educated in a very good suburban American school district which is pretty well resourced (I am still stinging from all the school supplies I just had to pay for) and with very good teachers. Ass a parent, therefore, I am happy to report that my children have received a good standard of education on both shores of the Atlantic but I would say that their educational experience is better here in Pennsylvania just because it offers opportunities a small, remote and rural school never could. So no silly patriotism from me.

    As an educator, I have only taught in the UK but in a variety of schools, including one private school when I was a student teacher. What I learned is that the classroom experience is pretty much identical, the experience of teaching pretty universal. Kids are kids are kids and the dominant factors in whether they are successful learners or not is the quality of teaching they receive and the attitude towards education from the parents or caregivers at home, the latter often but not always influenced by the wider social context and environment around family life. I have seen crap teaching in private schools, grammar schools and comprehensives alike and likewise I have seen wonderful teaching in all of those same contexts. Sure private schools have loads of additional resources at their disposal and their school trip might be to the continent rather than to a local history site but that is bonus material. And expensive extra-curriculum stuff at that. At the very core, however, I’ve observed no discernible difference in the quality of education being delivered.

    I have only been educated in Scotland but my husband has been to umpteen different schools (his family moved a lot) in different areas of England and in the suburbs of Washington DC. In both countries, he attended private (UK public) schools and state (US private) schools and his ability to thrive educationally, to attain his potential, to develops as a learner, was wholly dependent on how decent the teaching staff were from subject to subject. He had excellent experiences in each context and he had dire experiences in each context.

    So – as you can see – I have opinions on the subject of education and what factors make a difference to child reaching their potential, being given a thirst for learning, being equipped with the tools they need for life, academic and practical, but none of the factors I consider paramount depend on private funding nor a particular side of the Atlantic.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you, Laura, for taking the time to type all of that out again and putting in a very thoughtful opinion about what education means to a child. Your philosophy matches what The Boffin and I believe. The children are only in school so many hours, but they are exposed to their home and the rest of life much more than that. What are they learning from that environment? That is why I love your art lessons on your blog. Learning can happen anywhere.

      You have four, so I can imagine what you had to pay for school supplies. You know what my friend did last year? She put her three kids on a scavenger hunt for school supplies around the house, since we all have things like that hanging around. She figured she saved about $150 with what they found.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I actually did what your friend did and we found enough items in the stationery shelves to save me some of the expense for my oldest son but I am still out of pocket by a considerable amount. I wrote a rant about it on my blog already so I won’t repeat here. It’s just frustrating.

        I am glad my rant was coherent to you. I think my first draft was expressed much better but my frustration with the computer eating my comment meant I was rage typing when I wrote that reply. Education is a subject I am passionate about. You might have noticed.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. You’re perfectly right when you say “Education is patchy wherever you live”: All systems have their pro and cons, and you find all flavours depending on the particular school – more to the point, on the particular teachers. I grew up all over the wordl, basically with French state schools..When I was placed in a UK school for a term, I was 2 years ahead in studies, but how I loved having a uniform (level playing field!) and all the sports. I recently spent a week in the USA with a couple of 11 year old boys who attend public school there and …. wow! Fantastic attitudes to learning and knowledge, enthusiasm and curiosity. They say it’s the school that motivates them. But families have a role and responbility in supporting whatever learning the kids are exposed to, and can’t just take it out on the system.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Welcome, Bea!

      The Boffin and I feel it is our responsibility to educate The Sprog, and the schools are there to help us. If there is something the schools are not covering, it is our job to do it or find someone who can. To blame the schools for something we are supposed to do is rather disingenuous.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I have no idea about the American schooling systems, but I know very well about Richard Taunton VI Form College in Southampton. Did you or the Boffin go there? I find that the biggest difference in schools here is whether it is a boarding school or not. Boarders tend to have excellent qualifications leading to good jobs, but can end up emotionally retarded for life.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The Boffin is a Richard Taunton alum. I threw that in as a wink to him.

      Maybe the boarders get the better jobs because they develop better connections through society. I sincerely wonder how much the quality of education has anything to do with it, considering the intelligence levels of a lot of those in the upper and upper middle classes.

      Liked by 1 person

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