Thursday, March 18, 2010

An Education, obligatory rant, etc

Excellent film! It's everything it's cracked up to be. However, I couldn't escape an enormous feeling of deja vu, since Lucy's blog post from before the film was even released in New York. In any case, if you want to retain that feeling of surprise, don't read this, Lynn Barber's real-life story on which the film was based. Hard to refrain, right? Well, it's a captivating tale nonetheless.

My favorite moment of the film actually occurred near the end, when the protagonist, a seventeen-year old schoolgirl named Jenny, visits her English teacher's house begging for help. The camera zooms in on Jenny's reaction to her teacher's house. This is the only unmarried woman she has ever visited, and she understands what it means to attempt an unmarried life as a woman in the sixties-- the freedom combined with the societal stigma. She does a double take. Perhaps it is possible, she thinks, to lead a happy life through learning, even as a woman.

Perhaps I'm projecting. But it was a very touching (albeit brief) moment. That said, I didn't much like the ending. More of a deus ex machina resolving itself in the span of ten minutes. But you can judge for yourself. And yet, Peter Sarsgaard and Carey Mulligan are extraordinary!


Since the film is tangentially on the topic of British public school education (i.e. private schools in America), allow me a little rant. After spending the past 6 days living with self-proclaimed yuppies/bobos (boboes? like oboes? David Brooks, some help here?) in the Bay Area, I've come to the conclusion that there are a number of things that I don't believe in. Most of these are widely accepted by the American social system (or at least upper class residents of the Bay Area) as a "good thing". I'd beg to differ.

Disclaimer: if you disagree with any of these, please don't hound me about it. I'm not sorry and I'm not changing my views anytime soon. I don't care if Whole Foods makes awesome granola (though they do). I'm skeptical about most things in life, and tend to be pretty opinionated in general. (Perhaps a testament to the Columbia English major's unsurpassed powers of critical thinking? ha.)

or am slightly distainful of, or disapprove of, or am highly skeptical of:

1. Whole Foods
2. Obedient children
3. Suburban sprawl
4. Pot used as tranquilizer (instead of party drug)
5. The obsession with perfect parenting
and, most importantly,
6. Private school (K-12), especially any private school that does not offer full scholarships for the underprivileged.


1. The owner of Whole Foods is a libertarian asshole and I'd rather not support his business. Also their food is way more expensive than Trader Joe's. Only the upper middle class can afford a diet wholly based on this chain. (see New Yorker article)
2. Obedient children do not our nation's future leaders make. Also children by nature are not supposed to be obedient. So it frightens and annoys me when they are.
3. Self-explanatory. I've made my hatred of the suburbs pretty evident to all who know me.
4. A pothead is a pothead. When it comes to the point of a person not being able to function as a normal human being without their morning toke, it's a problem. Yes, even in California. Also people are generally more annoying when they're high. Which is why I think I prefer it being a party drug for most people. Unless, of course, you're the Dude.
5. Kids will take care of themselves. Try not to hit them and it'll all be ok. Nurture them to death and they'll resent you later. In the past week I've been exposed to a parenting technique in which the child learns only by playing. So, instead of being taught to read at an early age, they should "come to it" naturally. In my experience, this is completely bogus. Skills like reading and writing aren't just "fallen upon" like the ability to stand on two legs or learning to speak. And hey, I learned to read at age 3, and I turned out ok. Ish. "Parenting with Positive Discipline" is just another way of wringing money out of the pockets of the perpetually stressed-out upper middle class.
6. Equality of opportunity would inherently entail a complete abandonment of the private school system. Different methods of teaching are all well and good, but if those methods aren't available to the entire spectrum of social, economic, and racial classes, private school becomes just another way of perpetuating the class system. I'm an admirer of the Waldorf schools, but I wish those could be available to the larger community and with greater amounts of tuition remission. Prep schools, however? An absurd concept.

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