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Showing posts from October, 2010

Ghouls, Santas, Nuts: Celebrating Abundance (Pile On 2)

The decorating season is upon us;  Martha Stewart leads the way. Since September and until the end of the year we in America are going all out to adorne anything that can be adorned - and what can't? - with the accessories of Halloween, Christmas, and fall. Right now it's about pumpkins, skeletons, ghouls but cometh November we will box those things up. We will make room for the symbols of Thanksgiving and fall, for leaves, turkeys, and nuts. (Admittedly, this second wave of decorations is not nearly as powerful as the Halloween wave, though it did seem to be gaining momentum in the wasteful years that led to the economic downturn.) After Thanksgiving, on the following Saturday or Sunday, we get ready for the ultimate decorating show: Christmas. We will string lights along our roof tops, blow up plastic Santas and reindeer, plop them in our front yards, drape clouds of artificial snow around them. We will put up our Christmas trees with their ribbons and ornaments and set

Another Word for Fast Food? Trzesniewski (Pile On 1)

The other day I passed by a new Subway sandwich place which had opened a few blocks from our house. As I was reflecting its green and yellow sign images of foot long chunks of white bread came to mind, mayo smeared on one half, mustard on the other; ham, provolone, pickles, jalapenos, onions, peppers, olives, tomatoes in between and a bag of chips for sides... People in America like to pile on. I also thought of my favorite fast food place in Vienna, which goes by the unspeakable name of Trzesniewski. The original Trzesniewski opened in the first district more than one hundred years ago. Its oldest location is tucked into a narrow street off of Graben. Other outlets are scattered around town. Trzesniewski sells open face sandwiches, slivers of rye bread (white or wheat? no, you do not get to choose!), topped with spreads made from either egg or tomatoes or cucumber, pickle, salmon, herring...  The more elaborate creations come with two or three spreads, applied next to each other

Let the Kids Run? In Germany Yes

The German Way, one of the expat blogs I follow, has a new post on parenting, schooling, and career training as seen in Germany and the USA: More German than the Germans.  It looks at overprotective vs. let the kids run mommies, at career choices made at 21 vs. 15. It is well worth reading.

Superman Won't Fix It. Will We? (How Schools Fail 3)

The school debate goes on. This week another documentary reached movie theaters in the US: Waiting for Superman . It is directed by Davis Guggenheim who was also in the chair for Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth. The new movie focuses on the drop out problem in the United States. It talks about kids in Los Angeles, New York, Washington DC who want to learn but don't get a chance because their neighborhood school is lousy; about parents who struggle for their kids and teachers who don't; about public school administrators who want to turn things around but run up against the walls of the unions; about a handful of charter schools and teachers which make a difference because they care. In the end we are reminded that there will be no Superman to fix the problem (president after president promised to do so) but that we can act. We can volunteer for our local school, mentor a child, donate, let our voice be heard at school board meetings and in mailings to our political repr

Crabs, Ballads, and Life Lessons (How Schools Fail 2)

Fellow blogger Lorraine Seal's  comment on my last post, How Schools Fail: Lost Kids and a "Race to Nowhere",  inspired me to add a new post instead of a reply. It is true: the level of secondary education is higher in Austria than in the US - but only in the fields of encyclopedic knowledge and language instruction. As described earlier, in  Schools and License Plates, Austrian schools show strong deficits in the teaching of critical thinking, team work, presentation, and creativity. Unfortunately these are qualities which are needed later on in the work place. Austrian schooling sees the renaissance man as its ideal. This sounds good. Is it practical? In this day and age? With Wikipedia and google? Our daughter spent two years at an AHS in Vienna (a school which covers the US grades five thru twelve) and we got to see first hand that for this type of school neither the teaching methods nor the content have changed since I graduated from an AHS in Innsbruck in 1980:

How Schools Fail: Lost Kids and a "Race to Nowhere"

Something is rotten in our education systems - on either side of the pond. 87 percent of all young people in the US want to go on to college after high school and yet one in three drop out of school. Reasons include the need to earn money, early pregnancy, having to care for a relative, and in some cases academic challenges that seem insurmountable; 69 percent of drop outs state that they are "not motivated or inspired to work hard". Drop out rates are highest among blacks, Hispanics, and Native Americans, where one in two children do not finish high school. (Data from this PBS Newshour report and from  The Silent Epidemic - Perspectives of High School Dropouts, a report prepared for the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation in 2006.) At the other end of the spectrum are those who are pushed to give their all, usually white or Asian kids. A recent documentary about this group of students, Race to Nowhere, talks about the pressure these children face and often cannot hold up