The British are very polite, many sorrys, thank yous, pleases. Everyone I interacted with was friendly. Visually England looks to me like Washington State, green with similar wildflowers: Queen Anne’s lace, pink clover, thistles, plus yellow gorse. The difference is ancient history, roads first build by the Romans, Norman churches built by French invaders, stone cottages with thatched roof from the 17th century, huge old manor houses where Elizabeth I or Henry VIII visited on their tours of the countryside. In York, we visited a Roman Villa that included heating under the floors, bath rooms with a pool of warm water, and a place to worship. The family I stayed with took me to Lullingstone Castle, built in 1060, with a manor house added in 1497. The famous Buckingham Palace, Tower of London, and Westminster Abbey are other old buildings we’ve all heard about. I took a photo of the place on the Thames River where the Mayflower was launched to sail to America.
The most ancient site were at Stonehenge and Avesbury, circles of stones. The only theory people seem to agree on is they were used for measuring the seasons with the sun and for rituals. Some of the stones marked a processional area where they walked to the stone circles. An archeologist on the tour said one theory was they marked a horizontal access to the afterlife.
The educational system is more complex than in the US. What we call public schools are private or independent. State schools can be affiliated with the Church of England or Catholic instruction. I took a photo of a school founded in the 17th century, connected with a church where boys were trained to be clergy. Girls from wealthy families might have a private tutor at home. Grammar schools are college prep secondary schools. Students take a test at age 11 that determines where they go to secondary school, called the GESE. Some leave school at age 16 and try to find work. In Sidcup, youth hang out on the street in front of McDonalds, considered a problem of “youth disorder.” With government cutbacks, fewer programs exist to keep teens busy. Now it’s mostly churches and sports activities. The A levels are very important for getting accepted to university like our SATs. Because of grade inflation an A* was added a few years ago, but that too has been inflated so thousands of students with an A* don’t get into Cambridge or Oxford. Some schools are for students who didn’t do well in secondary school and are prepared for the A levels and university admittance. Community colleges also provide vocational training.
I visited Emma’s private co-ed primary school, where as usual, students wear uniforms, including ties and short trousers for the boys. The Nursery school teacher said with all the focus on electronic media, some of her pupils have difficulty conversing, even dressing or feeding them. They don’t know fairy tales unless Disney animated them. Parents have less time to spend with their kids as both are working to make ends meet and pay the tuition of around 2,000 pounds a term. (Currently a pound is worth about 1.6 dollars.) The school has separate rooms for music, art, computers, science, and cooking. The yard has a bench where a student can sit if she or he is lonely, so other students will join her or him. Students bring home a notebook where parents can write their comments and initial that the child read outloud. The head teacher (principal) told me what surprised her about California schools were no uniforms, how large they are, and they’re more tied to a rigid curriculum. One of the teachers is involved with a sister school in Ghana without books, toys for the little ones, or teach training. More to come…..