April 26, 2004


On Friday, 23 April I went to talk to three classes of kindergarten students at Seward Montessori school, who had been learning about Australia and New Zealand (mostly Australia, but we'll let that slide ...). All in all it was a wonderful 2 hours of cultural exchange for me, and I hope for them too.

The most interesting thing I learnt was that the Sydney Opera House is featured in Finding Nemo. After showing pictures of all the wierd and wonderful fauna in Australasia I showed pictures of the cities. The "Wellington Cable Car" sign in the picture of Wellington alerted them that that was Wellington, but there was no clue that the next picture was Sydney except the opera house. "Does anyone know where this is?" I asked, and in each class a couple of little hands would shoot up, and little voices would call out, that it was Sydney. "How do you know?" I asked, and they would enthusiastically reply that Sydney was featured in Finding Nemo. Most other little heads in the class would then nod enthusiastically, remembering the film if not Sydney.

They were all markedly less enthusiastic about vegemite, as most Americans are (follow these google links to see what I mean).

In the first class, the choicest and most appropriate comment, was the girl who said that "I don't really care for that." One can assume that all the children saying "ewwww" and "yuck" would have expressed similar sentiments if they had been as articulate.

In the second class though I received proof that children in Minnesota are taught to lie, and to debase the meaning of useful words in the English language. Amidst a chorus of "ewww" and "yuck" the teacher actually told the children "If you don't like something, don't say yuck, say that's interesting, or that's different".

Anyone who has spent anytime in the Midwest will know that "interesting" and "different" do not mean curious and distinct as they do in most other parts of the English-speaking world -- they mean "I don't like that, but I'm not going to tell you that directly."

Midwestern people will defend this practice as being polite, overlooking that dishonesty is impolite in itself, saying that it would be rude to directly say "I don't like X". Perhaps they could learn to say "I don't really care for that" as some five years have ...

Posted by robe0419 at April 26, 2004 11:16 AM