The history of schooling

Don’t think that walking the streets of Paris is all just for fun. No. This is a business trip. Today I visited a famous learning-related site. East of the Louvre pyramid is a lovely little arch Napoleon had built to celebrate the victories of his Grande Armee.

Each panel celebrates a particular campaign and victory. The horses on top were originally those from atop St. Mark’s in Venice but were repatriated later. (The small photos are clickable.)

This panel represents Napoleon’s defeat of Prussia at Austerlitz. The Prussian troops lost all discipline, retreated, and lost the campaign.

The Kaiser, infuriated, vowed that this would never happen again. He created the Normal Schule to teach the obedience for which the Prussians became famous. They followed orders so well that the Kaiser enjoyed great success hiring them out as mercenaries. Needless to say, the military and social elite were spared these common schools.

An American school board official from Boston, Horace Mann, visited Prussia and concluded that this was just what America needed. America wasn’t fighting Napoleon; rather, it was building railroads and factories which required a discipline of their own.

Anyway, today’s pedagogical parable is that Napoleon is one of the root causes of American’s dumbed-down schools.

With more work to do today, I continued walking, through the garden of the Tuileries, where I stopped for a snack. (These folks took the next table.)

I trudged on up to the Place de la Concorde:

From there, I walked up the Rue Royal to the Madeleine, to the Opera, past Galeries Lafayette, and along Rue Provence to the Folies Bergere:

From the Folies, it’s only three or four blocks to the office of Didaxis, the company I’m working with on prospering in multicultural environments. It’s almost 11:00 pm here but I am tethered to our fast Internet connection.

Paris headquarters of Didaxis. The mistress of Louis XV lived next door as a little girl. A poet unknown outside of France was born upstairs.

Posted by Jay Cross at March 27, 2003 01:54 PM | TrackBack

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