In France, you see, we have good state schools (entirely free, even the pens and the books…). If you decide to go private, you are not going to pay for the teachers, just the additional management/discipline. But everybody thinks that it is REALLY expensive (we are talking about €100 a month here). So what do French do? They complain. Too many children in a class, you see. Private schools are so expensive that it is unfair (I think that I understood the meaning of expensive when I moved to London).
Before we start, I have to confess something. I am not in London today. I am sitting outside, in a small village close to Saint Tropez. The sun is shining; the light is so intense that I actually need sunglasses (In London, I put them on when I want to show off because there is a tiny bit of sunshine). But I miss London. Yesterday, I couldn’t find any coffee in my Mum’s house and had a terrible headache. Withdrawal syndrome. I am pathetic. Addicted to coffee. Where is my coffee shop at the corner of my street? The Internet connection is, at best, patchy, and Twitter seems only a dream from here. Fortunately, I had brought one of these old newspapers found in my attic. Just opening it felt nice. The smell of the old paper reminded me of London. I am a City girl. I miss the buzz. Something has gone badly wrong with me.
“This fight took place, one day last year, in the Zoological Garden at Cologne. It is to be hoped that the attendant keepers were able to separate these infuriated enemies before either of them had suffered mortal injuries (Well said. But did they stop them or not?). The visitors to our own Zoological Society’s gardens in Regent Park (I miss London. Don’t talk to me about Regent Park) have often remarked the unsociable temper of the white bears, which seem never disposed to amicable play with each other or to entertain the friendly greetings of their human admirers. In this respect, they behave differently from the brown and black bears…”You may remember that we were all amazed with Knut the bear. Apparently, there is nothing new here. Zoo fights and gossips were of interest more than a century ago. Human nature doesn’t seem to have changed too: the colour of the fur seems to be of importance to determine how you behave…Men seem to love to generalize (I know, I am deep today. Must be the sun on my head).
Today I am tired and dreaming about going to Bali…which hopefully will happen in August. I can’t wait…here is a photo of a boat to take me there…
I recently attended a debate with work colleagues. It was about whether HS2 (i.e. the new high speed train between London and Birmingham) was a good thing. It was the first time I attended a debate and I didn’t know what to expect. Well, I wasn’t disappointed. In fact, I couldn’t recognise my work colleagues. They had prepared arguments, were playing roles, and were passionate about debating. What surprised me the most is that the topic of the debate didn’t really matter, they just loved debating. You could see it on their face. They were actually having fun. There was a bell and it rang when one of the speakers was taking too long. Furthermore, one of our Directors was playing the role of David Dimbleby, who is a famous BBC political journalist.
I started to wonder where this love of debates was coming from. Well, believe it or not, it starts at primary school. My daughter explained to me that, from time to time, since she was seven, (yes, seven!) they had been having so-called “hot balloon” debates. Basically, they pretend that they are in a hot balloon but a couple of persons need to jump out of the balloon in order for the others to survive. You need to make your case and then you have to vote to decide who goes. Honestly, what sort of game is this? To make matters even worse, apparently it is good fun! This is probably because she never was “thrown out” of the balloon as she is very popular. According to my daughter, it is so perfectly normal and acceptable that she didn’t even think that it was necessary to mention it to me. To be fair, they also debate current affairs, which I knew about.
This is not where it stops. There are debating clubs and even competitions in every secondary school. Furthermore, Oxford and Cambridge have debating societies. You know that you are set for life once you are one of their members. Apparently, it also increases your chance to become a Prime Minister.
What I don’t understand is: why is it a good thing to debate for the sake of debating? Why is being a good debater so well recognised? Shouldn’t we value substance over style? You have to understand that the emphasis, in my (very French) education, was to come to the “right” solution (or “as right as possible given the circumstances”), and make a good decision. To a large extent, it is disrespectful in France to discuss a decision that has already been made. You just have to make the most of it. Well, not here, where every piece of decision is dissected bit by bit until you don’t understand the point of the initial decision any longer.
The name that sprang to my mind was “Sophists”. In Athens, they were teaching their skills for a price, because they spoke very well. They use rhetorical techniques to make their point, and it was working very well. It has certainly helped democracy, but as a sophist could successfully argue opposite opinions I doubt it made the decision-making process any easier. So, don’t you think than Great Britain is a Sophist Country?