Tengo dos amores (with apologies to Josephine Baker)

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When I first heard “J’ai deux amours” by Josephine Baker I understood the song as an abstraction: a song expressing the feelings of an incredible entertainer from the US who had to move to Paris to come into her own. Now, the song has a much more personal meeting.

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I never expected to become so attached to a city and its people. I did not expect the intoxication that comes from being able to communicate in another language other than your mother tongue (no matter how many mistakes you make in grammar and pronunciation). And like Josephine, often times, I was treated better here as a stranger then I was in my country of origin.

So in my final blog for this site I will let pictures take the place of words and I will let Josephine Baker express more fully what I wish I could.

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Published in: on June 24, 2010 at 1:01 am  Leave a Comment  
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Mirando el Mundial

The teacher had an emergency for the 1 o’clock class and the Netherlands was playing Denmark at 1:30.  We decided to honor our Spanish class by watching and discussing the game in Spanish.  The Students from Saudi Arabia, Italy and the U.S. (me) moved from watching the game on my MacBook to the cafeteria where it did not take much convincing of the Argentinean controller of the remote to turn off the hockey game.  This is the world of Mundial! We came from different countries, spoke different languages, but shared a love for “the beautiful game.”US goal

Soccer (fútbol) is the most popular sport in the world and the World Cup is the most watched sporting event in the world. None of us had a team playing, but we “ooohhh” and “aaahhhh” with every on-goal or blocked shot. We called the fouls the referees seemed to miss. We shared “Akti”, “café”, and “te” since SLU does not serve “cerveza” on campus (only a university from the US would engage in this oversight).

The Super bowl is the closest thing the US has to the World Cup.  But, the Super bowl does not offer the opportunity for people of diverse backgrounds to come together to share in the camaraderie that is possible with international fútbol. I am going to enjoy this brief moment of unity and bask in the glow that comes from being in contact with follow human beings that share an interest and love of the sport…at least until the US plays their team, then all bets are off.

Published in: on June 15, 2010 at 5:52 pm  Leave a Comment  

Escuelas privadas frente a las Escuelas Públicas

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The debate in Spain over public versus private education is only on the surface about the quality of the educational experience. In fact, by measurable outcomes there is no difference in level of achievement, entrance into university, or job placement between those who attend public schools versus those who attend private schools. The real issue appears to be about social standing and fear/dislike of the “other”.

The names of schools children attend are used as a badge of honor confirming distinction on both the parent and the child.  “My child goes to the German School”; “My child goes to the British School”; “My child goes to St. ….”. And “Miles (pronounced mee-les), where does your child go to school?” And when I mention that Dominique is attending a public school at first I get that look of bewilderment and then that look that comes into people’s eyes when they feel sorry for you or think that you are an imbecile but don’t want to say anything.

As I have scratched beneath the surface about this and inquired why those who disapproved of public school education did so, at first I heard statements about quality of instruction.  But, this did not stand up to close scrutiny.  The government mandates the curriculum, books and lessons for both public and private schools.  All the kids are learning the same things, more or less. Class size is about the same (sometimes smaller in the public schools). So what is the difference?  The answer appears to be about bragging rights and making sure your child is not exposed to the immigrants in public school…like me.

The focus of most of the fear/dislike is Moroccans, followed closely by South Americans. The belief is that these children do not have the same “values”, or as “well behaved” as Spanish children (see my previous post about the behavior of Spanish children). It is my turn to look at them with pity and as if they are “tonto”.

For the record, I think Colegio Publico Portugal, where Dominique is going to school was a perfect choice for her.  The teachers are caring and made her transition as painless as it can be when you come to a school in the middle of the school year and don’t speak the language.  Do I think the academics are up to par with what she was studying in the States, no. But, as I said earlier, the curriculum would be no different at a private school. And I suspect less caring. So, this whole thing has me thinking about public and private school education in the States.

In Virginia a lot of the private school education (as well as home schooling) is based on religious separation; meaning people want their kids raised with a certain religious doctrine and not exposed to behaviors and beliefs that run counter to theirs. Of course, it is crass in the US to engage in behavior that sets you too far apart socio-economically.  But, everyone knows how expensive it is to go to certain private schools.  Now, my question is do kids who attend private schools in the US fair better than their public school counter parts (asked by someone who attended public school and has not done too bad)? The argument is made on the face that this is why parents send kids to private schools. And of course there are those who argue for “school choice” based on “failing” public schools.

I am just wondering how different we are in the States from the Spaniards.

Published in: on June 1, 2010 at 3:15 pm  Leave a Comment  
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