Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A parent review of Hill House International Junior School, London, England

As of late November, London is finishing up assessment season, when children at the ripe age of 4 have interviews for private, i.e. not state run, primary schools.  Offers come quickly, as do decision deadlines.  So while few in the US read blogs over Thanksgiving week, I offer this parent review of Hill House International Junior school in Chelsea.  

UPDATE October 2012, after a year and a term back in the States: Everything I have written about Hill House's superior education below, I believe even more firmly now. The foundational education that my son received in three years of Hill House eclipses the foundation his sisters have received here. My eldest daughter did kindergarten back to back, reception at Hill House and kindergarten in Texas, and the difference was stark as well as discouraging. The fault line is not US v UK academic instruction, though the UK is not as in thrall to early academic testing that has eviscerated US early education. The fault line lies on how we teach children. We don't educate children. We teach them to complete tasks. The lucky children are the ones taught to complete those tasks themselves.  I will revisit most of these issues in articles at PJMedia (I'm now a freelance writer) starting with  an upcoming review of Camille Paglia's Glittering Images. It is a remedial art history book that she wrote for homeschooling parents so that they could provide the rich education that we were fortunate to have for a few years in London. 
The short take: We moved back to Houston because our entire family, both sides, lives here.  Yet despite such significant ties, every day I question whether I have done the right thing by my children in moving home and leaving Hill House.  I knew the school was a rare gem while I was there.  I really had no idea how much of an oasis from modern parenting chaos it was until I had to go somewhere else.    

Monday, November 14, 2011

Tales from Pop Radio

I only listen to the radio in the car.  Since I never drove in London, I lost touch with pop music.  I did stream KGSR sometimes (the best music radio station in the world and it has live streaming), but otherwise I was cut off from new music.  You might think that a blessing, but I like doing pop culture analysis.  Therefore, a few random observations from a few months in the car.  
Lady GaGa has a better voice than Madonna, though her fans, or a small number of her fans, lack qualities to be desired.  Regardless of their insults to Adele, however, voice-wise she can mop the floor with Lady GaGa.  The attacks make me like her more frankly.  I first found Adele on my KGSR stream about a year ago.  I had no idea she was so popular over here.  She’s beautiful, confident, and pure talent.  What is not to like?
Katy Perry’s Friday might be the most morally vacant song I have ever heard.  It is a hard call with the also popular Pumped Up Kicks (see comment 'I used to think this was a song about shoes!'), but I think she inches it out because Friday speaks to ordinary people, not sick psychopaths.  
The first time I heard it, Rebecca Black’s Friday popped into my head.  From the video it seems that she intended the comparison.  Rebecca Black is the friend that does the makeover: 

Perry’s Friday is just as vapid, complete with the “TGIF’ chant to match the days of the week recital. Only Perry’s Friday is not at all innocent. It aspires to the traditional party girl, Girl Power, ‘do it because it feels good’ meme.   Alanis Morissette’s You Learn is my favorite of this meme because it recognizes that ‘to learn’ is why mistakes are valuable.  ("Why do we fall, Master Wayne?”  Whoops.  Crossing the pop culture streams.) P!nk’s Bad Influence looses the value of learning from mistakes but at least sees some value in occasionally cutting loose.  That is, in both of those songs, and most others in the meme, the mistakes have some sort of purpose towards good.  
But in Perry’s Friday, an “epic fail” is just what you do on Friday.  Next Friday you will “do it all over again.”   There is no sense of consequence.  There is no sense of redemption. It is supposed to be an upbeat party song, but it is stunningly depressing, the mundane consequences of Nietzsche’s philosophy reduced to a peppy beat.   
UPDATE: I first saw the video when writing this post.  I've had a day to digest the video and now wonder if Perry intends to endorse the moral vacancy or damn it.  My guess is the former, but I don't know enough about Perry to be sure.  
There is a country song for everything, and I do mean everything.  There’s home grown tomatoes (one of only two things that money can’t buy) and crime and punishment (I thought of linking to that song over the summer, but that is the sort of humor conservatives aren’t permitted to do.  Willie himself is liberal, and Toby Keith has only donated to a Republican recently).  Recently we have everything from breast cancer to red Solo cups (the plastic disposable cups?  Yep.  Those are the ones.)  Now, I am proud to present to my British audience and Texpat, who is homesick, with Camouflage: 
You can blend in in the country/you can stand out in the fashion world/be invisible to a white tail/and irresistible to a redneck girl

It's right up there with Ra Ra Rasputin.  You need the lyrics for full effect:
Kevin wasn't really all that popular in school
But I remember well when I thought that guy is pretty cool
He pulled into the parking lot and everybody cheered
Because he had gone and painted his Chevy Cavalier 
Camouflage it disappears when it pulls out of his garage
I asked Penny to the prom and her mom knew how to sew
so she made a matching tux and gown from Duckline Mossy Oak
We took pictures in the backyard before we went to the dance
And the only thing you can see is our faces and our hands 
Camouflage, Camouflage
Camouflage you seen have seen the way it popped with her corsage
Camouflage, Camouflage, ain't nothing that doesn't go with Camouflage 
You can blend in in the country
you can stand out in the fashion world
being invisible to a white tail and irresistible to redneck girl 
Camouflage, Camouflage
Oh you're my favorite color Camouflage 
You can blend in in the country
you can stand out in the fashion world
being invisible to a white tail and irresistible to redneck girl 
Well the stars and bars offends some folks and I guess I see why
nowadays theres still a way to show your southern pride
the only thing is patriotic as the old red white and blue
is green and gray and black and brown and tan all over too 
Camouflage, Camouflage
designed by mother nature and by God
Camouflage, Camouflage
Oh you're my favorite color Camouflage

Monday, November 7, 2011

But you seem so normal.

Comrade C and his family came to London. As per my usual, I took them to tea at the place with the nude in mosaic. The girls are in high school. They are Christian and conservative and sadly accustomed to the "but you seem so smart/normal/nice/well informed" remarks.
Such comments are common conversation topics when conservatives get together. I told them about the recent, "I can't believe my best friend is a Republican." article in Salon. Read the whole thing, but this bit caught my attention:
When I moved to Los Angeles, the 2004 election had just finished ravaging the neighborhood. Friendships had ended over differences of opinions, a few marriages had learned what they were made of when one couldn't abide what hadn't been that big of a deal before 9/11. And so when I met Janet, she was on the defensive. That first dinner at her house, someone brought up her Republicanism. I looked down into my soup, sure this was something we shouldn't talk about. I don't remember the comment, or Janet's reply, but I remember my husband asking why she'd be friends with all these liberals -- and yes, it was only liberals at the table -- if she felt so strongly. Throwing her hands up, she said, "I guess I lack the courage of my convictions."
But it's not that. I don't speak for Janet, but I think there's something deeper at play. Janet's willingness to associate with so many liberal friends -- though I know she seeks refuge in chat rooms and magazines that share her beliefs -- makes her a better and more interesting person. She has her beliefs challenged constantly. She is more well-read and educated in her politics than most of the liberals I know. Too many liberals I know are lazy, they have a belief system that consists of making fun of Glenn Beck and watching "The Daily Show." Shouldn't their beliefs be challenged, too?
I won't quibble with Taffy's conclusion about liberals needing to be challenged, but she is wrong about the reason for her friend's comment.  She missed, or avoided, that her friend's comment about courage of her convictions was ironic. Her friend doesn't lack the courage of her convictions. In a moment of frustration, she was accusing liberals of lacking the courage of theirs.*  

Liberals tell us that they are the most open and tolerant, yet it is the liberal Janet who can't look her friend in the eye and missed the subtle jibe that refusing to socialize with the Other is hardly courageous.  It is the friend who is willing to sit amongst the Other, willing to have her beliefs challenged, willing to calmly explain and defend her beliefs to someone who sometimes won't even look her in the face. It is the friend who will have to endure the common smear that conservatives are so intolerant that we must find it difficult to associate with people with whom we disagree--while we sit amongst those with whom we disagree.

We conservatives know of liberal contempt. Liberals should not imagine that they hide it well. When the friend seeks refuge in chat rooms and magazines, I assure you that the topic of the left's impressive irony resistance capabilities comes up from time to time. Sometimes we get weary.  But we pick up and carry on. After all, we aren't going to win any hearts or minds by crying on a pillow or preaching to the choir.

In related links, Another heartless conservative (last item)
If you want intolerance, move to California.  (h/t Instapundit)

*Note, we conservatives do respect the courage that people like Taffy have. We know how our liberal friends have to defend themselves and, perhaps, to keep us separate from their other friends. Some are braver than others, of course, but we know they come under fire for associating with us. The effort does not go unnoticed.