Etiquette Hell

A Civil World. Off-topic discussions on a variety of topics. Guests, register for forum membership to see all the boards. => Trans-Atlantic Knowledge Exchange => Topic started by: GSNW on July 23, 2013, 07:38:14 PM

Title: For the Brits - opinions solicited!
Post by: GSNW on July 23, 2013, 07:38:14 PM
To preface, I am a middle school teacher, and I am licensed to teach science.  This year, I was asked to take on an "Advanced Explorations" class.  This is essentially an elective class for kids who don't have an elective - they are not in performing/fine arts and do not want to be a student aide.  It will be a mix of 7th and 8th graders, and they are  generally average (or meeting expectations) to advanced (exceeding) students, as any student showing deficiencies in ELA or math will be in a different elective class.  Repeaters are not going to be put in my class.  So I'll have a group of 20-25 solid students.

I have a long-winded plan for the class that isn't 100% relevant to my question - what I'd love to hear from those willing here are opinions on the current monarchy and the peerage/hereditary privilege systems that are in place.  Do you find this affects the average citizen?  Many people in the US have a notion that British society is very stratified and that there is little mixing between "levels," but with the majority being "regular" people, does this really make a huge difference?  Or is this an outdated notion?  OUR press made a huge deal of the new duchess being a "commoner," was it as big of a deal on your end? 

I would like to give my students a very realistic view of a culture that is in many ways different than our own, but I want it to be a real look, not just a lesson based on stereotypes and blanket statements.  Any suggestions of books that I can read (that are more informational than gossipy) to increase my own knowledge would be welcome, too.  I have *one* close friend that is British and I know her opinions and thoughts, so I definitely want to get a wider view in any way I can!
Title: Re: For the Brits - opinions solicited!
Post by: veryfluffy on July 24, 2013, 12:23:41 AM
I would say that hereditary peerages and the aristocracy are virtually irrelevant to the average person in the UK -- for at least 95% of the population. You don't encounter any of them, and nothing about their existence has any bearing on any part of your life, positive or negative. There is the occasional TV programme about someone with a title, a crumbling castle and no money trying to keep from selling the family silver to make ends meet, or you might live near some grand pile and wonder what goes on there (eg I live 3 miles from Althorp, ie where Princess Diana brother lives, and she is buried, and I walk my dog on some of their land which is accessible to the public, so that's fine.)

Even if you happen to go to certain universities or end up in certain jobs where you might encounter the even tinier minority of the population from these categories, it isn't relevant for most people. To some extent it's because they will tend to stick together, because they move in the same social circles usually involving more money than most of us have -- but if you are interesting enough and/or have enough money to play with them then they will happily let you in too. It's probably a bit like movie stars in America, but not as good-looking.

I would say the notion of stratified society is, in that sense, pretty well out-dated. Of course there are social classes and regional groupings where people have different interests and tastes, speak differently, and have more or less money, but I can't see it is any more rigid or noticeable than in American society. No one defers to their "betters" or believes themselves to be social inferiors, other than not having as much money.

The monarchy is a funny one. Aside from a some elderly people and extreme royalist types, in my experience most people are pretty well indifferent to the monarchy. They don't mind the Queen, but generally think the Royal Family are a major waste of taxpayers' money -- over-indulged benefit claimants. The only reason not to be ******* is because all politicians are crooks, and it would be even more expensive to have a president.

What's also amusing is that I have yet to speak to a single person who has even a modicum of interest in Kate and Will's kid. If you read the comments on the BBC news website, they are pretty well representative. While the newspapers and TV can talk about nothing else, no one I know actually cares.
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Edit to add: just noticed that the filter took out a word beginning with "r" that means not wanting to be ruled by a monarch and to have an elected president instead!
Title: Re: For the Brits - opinions solicited!
Post by: DaisyG on July 24, 2013, 04:46:55 AM
I agree with Veryfluffy that these things are generally irrelevant.

I saw some of the American coverage of Kate and William's wedding, making a lot of her being a commoner, but in Britain this was mentioned but wasn't made such a big deal of. Kate attended an expensive boarding school which meant she would have associated with people with family titles and lots of money and would have given her a similar (although coeducational) schooling experience to William. I believe the biggest difference in British society is between the superrich (and their families and alumni of some of these "public" schools) and the rest of us normal folk.

It might be interesting for your class to contrast the British "public" schools (i.e. expensive exclusive boarding schools where many politicians go) and state education. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_school_(United_Kingdom) (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_school_(United_Kingdom))
Title: Re: For the Brits - opinions solicited!
Post by: Honeypickle on July 24, 2013, 06:19:37 AM
The US comedian Reginald D Hunter did a very funny monologue on class in the UK - how we use it to distinguish ourselves from, and look down on, those who look just like us, i.e. rather than white v black as is more common in the US. Try and find it on you-tube, would be worth a look as he got it spot on.

I would say the class system is well and truly alive in the UK no matter how much we might pretend otherwise (see huge popularity of TV programmes like My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding or the UK version of Four Weddings where the brides are endlessly horrible about how tacky (i.e. "common") the other brides' choices are). However, as the other posters have said, the real aristocracy is so small over here and not part of people's day to day lives.

With regards Kate Middleton being a commoner, the real vitriol was reserved for her so called "pushy" mother Carole Middleton. The upper classes looked down on her because she used to be an air hostess (before the engagement, apparently William's friends used to call her "Doors to Manual") and the rest of the UK despised her for being a social climber who kept making errors, like chewing gum during William's passing out parade. Kate was not looked down on for being a commoner probably because she is young and pretty, but she did get a slating in the press before the engagement for never having a proper job and just waiting for William to propose - "Waitey Katey" and so on.
Title: Re: For the Brits - opinions solicited!
Post by: Sharnita on July 24, 2013, 08:10:33 AM
Out of curiosity, what is a "proper job"? I think most people in the US would see a flight attendant as a proper job but it sounds like her mom got disdain for that.
Title: Re: For the Brits - opinions solicited!
Post by: perpetua on July 24, 2013, 08:14:10 AM
Out of curiosity, what is a "proper job"? I think most people in the US would see a flight attendant as a proper job but it sounds like her mom got disdain for that.

I think the PP was referring to Kate, rather than her mum. Kate worked for the family party business and also had a part time job of some kind in fashion buying, I think.
Title: Re: For the Brits - opinions solicited!
Post by: NestHolder on July 24, 2013, 03:44:29 PM
GSNW, I recommend you get hold of a book called 'Watching the English: The Hidden Rules of English Behaviour', by Kate Fox.  It gives a pretty good look at our society, and it's quite entertaining.

There are all sorts of classifications within English society—people will judge one another on how they speak, where they live, where they went to school, what job they do, what hobbies they have, and so forth.  (Thinks: I wonder how they do it in the USA?) 

I mean, I judge my DH for saying 'serviette' as a default instead of 'napkin'.  Then again, his great-grandparents were factory owners, and one of my great grandmothers was a tart in the East End of London (don't know who the corresponding great grandfather was!).  Class is a lot more fluid than Americans tend to think it is.  And it's also a lot less relevant. 

As for royalty and the aristocracy, they don't feature in my life at all unless a) there is a Public Holiday in celebration of some grand event like a wedding or a jubilee, or b) I go to visit a stately home.  (I did spot the Duchess of Devonshire zipping about in a golf cart last time I went to Chatsworth, and was greatly amused by the flunky in morning dress who held an umbrella for her when she went into the house...)  Of course, people who live in the vicinity of Chatsworth are likely to notice the aristocracy more, as they may well be employed by the estate in some capacity, but that's like saying that people who live in Sunderland are more likely to notice Nissan than other people in England are, because there is a Nissan factory in the North East so magnificent it has its own motorway exit.

Incidentally, class and income are only tenuously related here.  A vicar is middle class, but poor (except that he's usually provided with somewhere to live, usually oversized and hard to heat), a plumber is working class but almost certainly far better off than the vicar!

Also, I don't think we notice the slightest practical difference between being a 'subject' and being a 'citizen'.  I very much doubt that I am any less free than your average US citizen (thanks to the NHS, I'm probably a lot more free, but that's an argument for a different venue!), and it wouldn't occur to us that it matters.

That said, it's all too easy to pick on a class-based reason for despising someone, if that's what you (ie the tabloid press) want to do.  See conversation above re Carole Middleton.  People like Richard Branson will be despised as under-educated nouveau riche, at the same time as a scion of the royal family will be despised because he earns his own living making furniture.  Ridiculous, really.
Title: Re: For the Brits - opinions solicited!
Post by: Barney girl on July 24, 2013, 05:02:50 PM
While class itself may be fairly irrelevant, money and the schools/universities people go to seem to be quite relevant. Our senior politicians on both sides of the political spectrum largely come from a monied public school and Oxbridge background.
I would say that the vast majority of the population is quite fluid as to how people mix but there's a relatively small group from whom those with most influence is drawn. That's not unique to the UK though. I was reading an article the other day about the narrow group that runs French politics, mainly drawn from the high flying Grandes Ecoles. I would guess other countries are the same in influence depending on who you know and coming from the 'right' background.
Title: Re: For the Brits - opinions solicited!
Post by: Snowy Owl on July 24, 2013, 06:27:22 PM
Out of curiosity, what is a "proper job"? I think most people in the US would see a flight attendant as a proper job but it sounds like her mom got disdain for that.

I think the PP was referring to Kate, rather than her mum. Kate worked for the family party business and also had a part time job of some kind in fashion buying, I think.

Agreed.  The disdain was due to the perception that Kate wasn't really getting a proper job or doing anything much, just killing time until William proposed.  There's nothing wrong with being a flight attendant.  It's respectable, fairly well paid (in some airlines more than others) and has a fair number of benefits.

In terms of which jobs have the most status I'd say the high status jobs are the legal and medical professions, the church, the business and financial sector (in some capacities), acadaemia and being an officer in one of the armed forces. This doesn't accord with the best paid jobs.  A premiership footballer or a major businessman like Richard Branson will earn significantly more than any of the above usually but would usually have a lot less status. 

There's also a degree of amusement at people who acquire a lot of money and spend it on really ostentatious things.  The example that springs to mind is a topless model called Jordan or Katie Price who has managed to build a pretty impressive fortune of £45 million through her marketing of her image, her reality tv show, her perfume line, her clothing lines etc.  She's known for getting married in very ostentatious ceremonies featuring thrones, cinderella coaches and a lot of pink. She's probably better off than most of the aristocracy but she's absolutely working class. 

I'd pretty much agree with everything VeryFluffy said about the hereditary peers and aristocrats.  They're a complete irrelevance to the vast majority of people.  I'd think the number of them with actual power is pretty low as most of them appear too busy trying to make ends meet.  When I lived in the North of England I was aware of the local baronet as I worked for him for a time.  He was a frightfully nice chap and a pretty considerate employer but very much preoccupied with his estate.  He was one of those with a large house and not enough money to maintain it.  He did not, I should say, get very much deference from anyone on account of the title. 

I'd agree most people (bar a few ardent monarchists) are fairly uninterested in the new baby despite the efforts of the media to drum up interest.  I've been listening at work to the conversation and the general view was "woman has baby, big deal, now about the football..." 

The general view on the monarchy that I know is "well it's probably better than the alternative, could you imagine President Blair or President Cameron?"  Followed by something derogatory about either or both of the previously mentioned and grumbling about politicians in general.  Me I'd tend to prefer a republic along the German model with a President who is a figurehead (and not paid very much) and a Prime Minister who has the political power, but I'm in the minority.

I think some of the way the UK is depicted in the media (including films and novels) leads to an erroneous perception that royalty and aristocracy has a lot more power and influence than they actually do.    In terms of who does have the power, I'd say not so much the hereditary peers but more a group of people from a fairly well off untitled background who went to the "right" schools and universities which accords with what Barney Girl said.  I'd agree it's the same in most other countries.






Title: Re: For the Brits - opinions solicited!
Post by: Lynn2000 on July 24, 2013, 06:55:37 PM
Fascinating thread! OP, can I ask, what is your class going to be about? Sort of a British culture thing? You started off talking about science so I was thrown when you jumped into British culture/politics. :)

As an American, I do think the media is very much slanted to play up the aristocracy and class differences in Britain. I think, being a relatively young country with many citizens whose ancestors were poor immigrants, we find it fascinating to realize some families can trace their ancestries and even property back 1000 years or more, because their families were among the few important enough to keep track of. At least, that's one reason *I* find it so fascinating.

Personally, I like Will and Kate (well, the idea of them, obviously I don't really know them!) and have been interested in the baby news. But, I'm utterly bored with all the hoopla over the Kardashians here in the US, and their pregnancies and love lives and so forth. It's completely irrelevant to my life, except for being bombarded with pictures of them on the front covers of every magazine and tabloid at the grocery checkout counter. So maybe that's somewhat of a comparison to the royal family?
Title: Re: For the Brits - opinions solicited!
Post by: Honeypickle on July 25, 2013, 05:14:51 AM
Yes, as other posters have clarified for me, the "proper job" referred to Kate not her mother.
Title: Re: For the Brits - opinions solicited!
Post by: RingTailedLemur on July 25, 2013, 05:23:47 AM
While class itself may be fairly irrelevant, money and the schools/universities people go to seem to be quite relevant. Our senior politicians on both sides of the political spectrum largely come from a monied public school and Oxbridge background.

I think this is a problem in Britain.  The people in political control have lived in a class and "old boys network" that, in my opinion, encourages them to look down on regular voters - calling (legitimate) benefits recipients "scroungers" etc.  Many voters believe such politicians (eg Gove, Cameron, Johnson) cannot and will not understand their struggles.  Twitter and blogs are useful places to look at people's views on this.

There is also the House of Lords which has some power (voting on laws etc) and has been criticised for being based on heredity rather than democratic voting.

I think the class system is alive and well in Britain.
Title: Re: For the Brits - opinions solicited!
Post by: Margo on July 25, 2013, 07:57:10 AM

 what I'd love to hear from those willing here are opinions on the current monarchy and the peerage/hereditary privilege systems that are in place.  Do you find this affects the average citizen?  Many people in the US have a notion that British society is very stratified and that there is little mixing between "levels," but with the majority being "regular" people, does this really make a huge difference?  Or is this an outdated notion?  OUR press made a huge deal of the new duchess being a "commoner," was it as big of a deal on your end? 


I'd agree with PPs that the aristocracy as a class is pretty well irrelevant - movement between classes has always been fairly fluid, but generally movement of one class at a time (e.g. if you look at the Industrial Revolution, you see wealthy factory owners' daughters marrying aristocrats, same again in the 1920s.

I would say that in terms of who people tend to know/ socialise with, money is a bigger division - the rich tend to gather together regardless of whether they have titles.

If you attend university at Oxford, Cambridge, St Andrews or Bristol you're more likely to have encountered people from that class, and the same if you attend certain fee-paying schools. If you happen to know them, they're just people.


The press made a big deal of Kate being a commoner but I don;t think that most real people cared (if it matters, it's a bit of 'spin' anyway - they focussed on her mother's family, which isn't aristocratic - on her father's side she's apparently descended from Henry VIII!)

Among normal people, there is some stratification between working class and middle class, but it is very flexible -I would say most people, whether they identify as working class or as middle class would have friends and colleagues of both classes, and people may well identify as different classes in different situations or at different times in their lives.

So far as the monarchy generally is concerned, I think that there is a small but very vocal minority of people who are very Royalist, a slightly larger and slightly less vocal minority who are strongly r*publican (I heard a recent new items identifying that group as around 18% of people in the UK) and a lot of people who don't have any real interest in the royals but are happy for them to continue as heads of state and to do all that foundation-stone laying, and hand-shaking.

As an illustration, I haven't heard a single one of my coworkers or clients mention the new baby - most are simply not that interested.  The most mention I saw of it on my facebook and twitter feeds were people praising the Guardian newspaper's '*******' button (which allowed you to remove all the royal baby nonsense from the screen when reading the online version of the paper)

I recall a few years back the Queen visited my (then) home town - none of us other than my dad (who was specifically asked to go to form part of the band ringing the cathedral bells to celebrate her visit) went, or wanted to go into to to see her, and I when she & Prince Philip visited my brother's place of work recently he didn't consider it interesting enough to bother mentioning it , and said that of the staff who weren't actively being introduced to her, most just grumbled about the extra security, so I don;t think we're unusual in being basically not very interested. I think there are a lot of people who see them as  a waste of money and would like to see the monarchy slimmed down, so that fewer members get subsidised by the state, and they all pay their fair share of tax.

I think that RingtailedLemur is right in that financial division, and the return to a government full of people who are from the very wealthy sections of society is a much more serious issue, and one which people generally are far more concerned about.
Title: Re: For the Brits - opinions solicited!
Post by: faithlessone on July 25, 2013, 08:51:19 AM
I did go to a fancy fee-paying boarding school - the kind that's been going since the Middle Ages and only started letting girls in about 30 years ago, which made a lot of the Old Boys very grumpy. I knew a couple of members of the aristocracy went there at the same time as me (not in my year, but there was a "Lady" in the year above me, and the younger son of a Viscount a couple of years below). I also heard recently that one of my former classmates is engaged to an "Honourable". The year I started, the Queen Mother came to open one of the school buildings, and later, the Queen visited with Prince Philip for one of the school's big anniversaries. Both were pretty amazing occasions.

It was a specialist music school, so we had a good mix of people, some very rich and very upper class, some just reasonably rich, some whose fathers and grandfathers and great-grandfathers had gone to the school (I think the record was 11 generations?), and a few kids who were literally only there because of exceptional talent and hefty scholarships. About 95% of my classmates went on to good universities - about a third to Oxford, Cambridge or the Royal Academy of Music - and the few remaining others went straight into family businesses.

I love the Royal Family. They get some bad press sometimes, and there are a few members that make trouble sometimes, but I think the Queen is marvellous, and the majority of the family are wonderful, strong, intelligent people. I was very excited to watch the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge get married, and I've followed the news of Prince George's birth quite closely. I think that they are a very good "face" for the new generation of Royals, along with my personal favourite Royal, Zara Philips, and that the others of that generation are beginning to follow their good example.

The wonderful thing about any society, the British included, is that there is such amazing variety of thought. You can't clarify the "British Opinion" because everyone is different. It can be something to do with your background or upbringing, but even that doesn't have to make much of a difference. My best friend was raised very similarly to me - good, solid middle-class family, nice fee-paying private school, good university - and she couldn't give a hoot about the Royal Family. She doesn't think they're a "drain on public resources" (as some might put it), but she says that they don't affect her directly, so why should she care?

So yeah, I'm probably on the upper side of middle-class, and I do think there is still a flourishing class system in the UK, but it's not a static system - there's plenty of movement, particularly in the middle, and a lot of mixing. There are obviously pockets of people - the very upper class have their circles, and there are plenty of places in the country where the vast majority of people are lower/working class, but I don't think it's anywhere near as strictly layered as the stereotypes would have you believe.
Title: Re: For the Brits - opinions solicited!
Post by: perpetua on July 25, 2013, 09:27:59 AM
The wonderful thing about any society, the British included, is that there is such amazing variety of thought. You can't clarify the "British Opinion" because everyone is different. It can be something to do with your background or upbringing, but even that doesn't have to make much of a difference. My best friend was raised very similarly to me - good, solid middle-class family, nice fee-paying private school, good university - and she couldn't give a hoot about the Royal Family. She doesn't think they're a "drain on public resources" (as some might put it), but she says that they don't affect her directly, so why should she care?

That's very true. I place myself firmly in the working class bracket and I think the Queen is great. My opinion is kind of that whatever feelings you have about the "drain on public resources" debate, you simply can't knock an 87-year-old lady who's given her entire life to the service of the country and still works full time, every day, in heels.   ;D I mean, crikey. What an incredible work ethic.
Title: Re: For the Brits - opinions solicited!
Post by: emwithme on July 25, 2013, 11:53:36 AM
Faithlessone, are you an Old Wallensian? 
Title: Re: For the Brits - opinions solicited!
Post by: GSNW on July 25, 2013, 06:39:27 PM
Thanks everyone for the awesome replies so far!  This has given me a lot to go off of.  I'm hoping to engage the kids in a sort of debate, but really, I'd just like them to see that our way isn't the only way and that other countries have a lot of success doing things differently.  The hereditary and lifetime peers in the House of Lords is a subject I find pretty fascinating... esp since the reasoning for appointing lifetime peers based on expertise and having them weigh in on important issues seems to make a lot of sense to me. 

I've ordered a copy of the suggested book and I'd love any other suggestions you guys have!

To answer a question, I normally teach science, but since we had some budget issues and we're only staffed at 93% of our enrollment, they are buying preps this year to teach the explorations electives classes, and they're trying to create a bunch of different ones tailored to specific needs (there is a class exclusively for repeaters, classes to help with math or ELA deficiencies, etc).  Mine is meant to be the "good students who don't have an interest in fine arts" kind of class, so I'm really excited about what I might be able to accomplish with these kids.  When I said, "What do you want me to teach?", they said, "Anything you want," so that has left me scheming all summer.

The basic outline of the class is:

-VERY brief overview of the Roman Empire, pros and cons
-Fall of Rome, Visigoths
-Dark Ages (500-1500 loosely), inc Justinian, Clovis, Charlemagne, Black Death, Vikings
-After Dark Ages, focus on the history of the British monarchy
-Modern England, cultural/governmental differences (I also like the idea of looking at differences in education)

I also want to pepper in the "mysteries" and ask kids to discuss/take a stance, things like the boys in the tower, did Charlemagne really poison his brother, etc.  The fact is that these kids will get almost zero European history unless they choose to take it in college, and while I want them to be knowledgeable about their own country, I desperately want to give them another perspective.  I can give a broader view the further back in history we are, but since I only have a semester, I need to narrow down as we come to the modern day.  I think telling some of the more interesting stories of more colorful characters of the past will be fun, too... middle school kids can be bribed to listen to scandal!
Title: Re: For the Brits - opinions solicited!
Post by: Sharnita on July 25, 2013, 08:34:11 PM
Any way you could work in the Protestant Reformation as a whole? The religious, evonomic, politicaland military implications reached far beyond Europe and still.impact people today.
Title: Re: For the Brits - opinions solicited!
Post by: GSNW on July 25, 2013, 11:28:26 PM
Yes, reformists and reformers in general will definitely be part of it - there are so many stories that can't be told without that facet!  Just talking about many of the important players in the Tudor court, you can't forget the underlying reformers vs Catholics struggle.

Just casually talking current events with kids last year, I was shocked at how many were oblivious to the whole pope quitting thing - some even said, "What's a pope?"  The leadership of different churches doesn't affect me in any way, but I still think the dynamics are very interesting.
Title: Re: For the Brits - opinions solicited!
Post by: faithlessone on July 26, 2013, 02:11:23 AM
Faithlessone, are you an Old Wallensian? 

Um... yes? (It's spelt Wellensian, though!)

ETA: GNSW - That sounds like a really brilliant class!! I think the kids will really enjoy it. :D
Title: Re: For the Brits - opinions solicited!
Post by: Nibsey on July 26, 2013, 06:41:47 AM
Please do me one favour, explain to your students that the dark ages weren't actually dark. You may or may not already know this but most historians don't use this term anymore instead they use Middle Ages. This is because the term dark ages perpetuate the myth that this period was somehow backward when nothing could further from the truth. This quote pretty much sums it up;
"Medievalists have been at (largely unsuccessful) pains to convince their students that the "Dark Ages" is a misnomer, that the centuries between 500 and 1500 saw not only the birth of Europe but the beginnings of parliamentary democracy, romantic affection, universities, and even the discovery of the individual as a complex, internally contradictory agent in uneasy relation to society. "

I have to spend at least 30 minutes at the start of every year dismantling all the historical myths like the church suppressed scientific knowledge or that people thought the world was flat or my favourite that people were somehow more superstitious than before.  ;D

ETA: I'd recommended a documentary series called "How The Celts Saved Britain" which is really good and looks at this area in relation to Britain and Ireland.
Title: Re: For the Brits - opinions solicited!
Post by: GSNW on July 26, 2013, 01:32:33 PM
When I think "Dark Ages," I don't think helpless bozos so much as I think of a really difficult time to live in.  It's fun to compare all the conveniences we enjoy and expect today to a time when many of those things simply were not an option. 
Title: Re: For the Brits - opinions solicited!
Post by: emwithme on July 26, 2013, 04:29:44 PM
Faithlessone, are you an Old Wallensian? 

Um... yes? (It's spelt Wellensian, though!)

ETA: GNSW - That sounds like a really brilliant class!! I think the kids will really enjoy it. :D

Sorry to have confused you (and to have mis-spelled Wellensian) - my DH is one of you!  He's one of the few OW's who isn't musical AT ALL though (he cannot carry a tune given a whole wheelbarrow full of buckets), he attended because he grew up locally (and his parents aren't catholic enough for Downside or rich enough for Millfield)
Title: Re: For the Brits - opinions solicited!
Post by: Thipu1 on July 26, 2013, 06:15:37 PM
When I think "Dark Ages," I don't think helpless bozos so much as I think of a really difficult time to live in.  It's fun to compare all the conveniences we enjoy and expect today to a time when many of those things simply were not an option.

Amen GSNW,

We read about times when the ordinary people ate 'roots and leaves'.  This gives the impression that they were crawling around the floor of the forest (in which they were not allowed to hunt) grabbing whatever they could. 

In fact, these people were often eating highly nutritious food such as beets and turnips (roots) and the greens associated with these plants (leaves) while the upper classes ate meat and little else. 

I know this is getting way OT, but the following books are fascinating topics for discussion

Hartley, Dorothy.  'Lost Country Life: How English country folk lived, worked, threshed, thatched, rolled fleece, milled corn, brewed mead...'. New York : Pantheon, 1979.

Lacey, Robert and Danny Danziger.  'The Year 1000: what life was like at the turn of the first millennium' (Boston?) : Back Bay, 1999. 

Bryson, Bill. 'At Home : a short history of private life'. London : Black Swan, 2011.   
Title: Re: For the Brits - opinions solicited!
Post by: scotcat60 on July 27, 2013, 11:59:12 AM
Some intersting books are all by Jeremy Paxman

"The English Portrait of a people"
"On Royalty"
"Empire What ruling the world did to the English"

I think a lot of people are very interested in Royalty, you have only to see how stockists sell out of the styles of dresses that Kate Cambridge wears, and also there has been a run on the shawl won by Prince George for his first photocall.  I do think however, that we are not so in awe of the artistocracy, and certainly not of monarchy, which is a good thing. Two World Wars and beter woking conditions changed that.
 
The Royals are just human beings, not deities, and in recent years they have displayed this only too often. But their own attitude has been change and adapt. Time was that all the family married titles, now commoners are marrying into the family, though they tend not to come from council estates. And although the children of the Royal Dukes like Kent and Gloucester are part of the Royal Family, they are not the foundation stone laying, ribbon cutting,  royals that they would have been years ago.

Title: Re: For the Brits - opinions solicited!
Post by: GSNW on July 27, 2013, 03:09:58 PM

I think a lot of people are very interested in Royalty, you have only to see how stockists sell out of the styles of dresses that Kate Cambridge wears, and also there has been a run on the shawl won by Prince George for his first photocall.  I do think however, that we are not so in awe of the artistocracy, and certainly not of monarchy, which is a good thing. Two World Wars and beter woking conditions changed that.
 

Agreed!  British royalty in general -- I know other countries have their royals, but the Brits certainly seem to grab most of the headlines for do-gooding and interesting adventures.  It seems like Beatrix is just as much of a hard worker as Elizabeth II, but for some reason not as generally interesting. 

I also want to discuss the concept of ruling by divine right.  It certainly has diluted over the years if you look at ruling classes in general (Egyptian pharaohs were thought to be gods themselves, for example), down to put in place by God, down to hey... my dad was King so I'm in line for that, too.  It also seems that royals in the past 50 or so years have made a point of making themselves useful and not wanting, in general, to be seen as lazy drains on the economy.  I have a lot of admiration for Elizabeth II simply because she seems like a very strong-willed person who has a vision for how she would like her family to move forward.  I know we all say, oh, what a hard life with your estates and your secretaries and tailors and all, but I'm sure that life comes with a different sort of pressure.  I'm sitting at my desk looking borderline homeless and I'm about to go to Target in the same condition, and no one will say boo to me.

I am really loving this discussion, so thank you all!
Title: Re: For the Brits - opinions solicited!
Post by: scotcat60 on July 28, 2013, 01:47:30 AM
Please do me one favour, explain to your students that the dark ages weren't actually dark

True, there are many many absolutely beautiful artefacts in museums to prove this, i.e. the Sutton Hoo treasure.
Also, the Barbarians were not so barbarous, it was just  Roman propaganda of the "We are the cultured Romans, they are the uncouth Barbarians" type.

So what are what my teachers 50+ years ago called the Middle Ages i.e. mediaeval times, now known as?
Title: Re: For the Brits - opinions solicited!
Post by: scotcat60 on July 28, 2013, 01:51:19 AM
I also want to discuss the concept of ruling by divine right.  It certainly has diluted over the years if you look at ruling classes in general (Egyptian pharaohs were thought to be gods themselves, for example), down to put in place by God, down to hey... my dad was King so I'm in line for that, too

We had a king who believed that. He was called Charles I, and it ended on the block outside the Banqueting House in Whitehall.
Title: Re: For the Brits - opinions solicited!
Post by: Nibsey on July 28, 2013, 06:02:38 AM
Please do me one favour, explain to your students that the dark ages weren't actually dark

True, there are many many absolutely beautiful artefacts in museums to prove this, i.e. the Sutton Hoo treasure.
Also, the Barbarians were not so barbarous, it was just  Roman propaganda of the "We are the cultured Romans, they are the uncouth Barbarians" type.

So what are what my teachers 50+ years ago called the Middle Ages i.e. mediaeval times, now known as?

The Middle ages. Just not the Dark ages.

Historical periods in Europe are roughly as follows;
Prehistory (used by Archaeology): The stone age
                                                The bronze age
                                                The Iron age
Classical antiquity (used by historians): Archaic Period (This is also the iron age) (700 BC - 100 AD)
                                                        Late Antiquity (100 AD - 500 AD)
                                                        Migration period 200 AD– 700 AD)
Middle Ages: Early Middle Ages (500 AD – 1000 AD)
                   High Middle Ages (1000 AD – 1300 AD)
                   Late Middle Ages (1300 AD – 1450 AD)
Early Modern (1450 AD - 1750 AD)
Modern History (1750 AD - now)




Title: Re: For the Brits - opinions solicited!
Post by: paintpots on July 29, 2013, 05:57:26 AM
Re class material, there was a calculator on the BBC website that you can use to work out what you are (I think there are now seven, but it's somewhat nebulous).

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-22000973

It's also worth digging around in the Comment sections of the Daily Telegraph and the Guardian. They're a pretty good way of getting a feel for the different range of views in the UK (although I would say that the viewpoint of the average British person would fluctuate between the two and neither are entirely representative), and demonstrating journalistic bias.
Title: Re: For the Brits - opinions solicited!
Post by: guihong on July 29, 2013, 11:27:47 AM
One way you might tie in science with European (and English) history is weather.  There was a long warming period prior to 1300, after which came a 500-year period called the Little Ice Age.  Much cooler, rainier weather led to poor harvests and a weakening of people's health, which made much of Europe a sitting duck for the Black Death, and hence the economic and political changes afterwards.  Some historians trace poor crops in France, and the government's inability to deal with common peoples' needs, as one cause of the French Revolution.  The same later on in Russia and central Europe.  The Irish Potato Famine could also fit in.  I find it an interesting theory.
Title: Re: For the Brits - opinions solicited!
Post by: kglory on August 03, 2013, 02:00:04 AM
I'm American, not British, so no advice on your original question, but I wanted to say that this class idea sounds fascinating!

I wanted to recommend a book that sounds perfect for your curriculum:  Catherine, Called Birdy.  http://www.amazon.com/Catherine-Called-Birdy-Trophy-Newbery/dp/0064405842  It's a supposed diary in the life of an upper class (though not royal) preteen girl living in the 1200's.   Very informative while also being fun and interesting, and I've never seen a plot quite like this for this age group.  It seems like all the historical fiction is Tudor or nothing, and this is much earlier.

Title: Re: For the Brits - opinions solicited!
Post by: GSNW on August 03, 2013, 06:25:31 PM
Oh my goodness.  This book sounds fantastic, and my principal will probably let me buy a class set - especially since it's a Newbery book.  This class is only supposed to be a semester long, but the other teacher who I was supposed to "flip" with at semester also has ideas that will take longer than a semester, so we are going to ask our admin if we can just keep our kids the whole year.

Understanding marriage in those times - esp in the upper classes - as a business deal rather than a loving commitment is essential, and you're right about the Tudor fiction - it's great but certainly not appropriate for 12-14 year-olds.
Title: Re: For the Brits - opinions solicited!
Post by: Katana_Geldar on August 03, 2013, 06:57:12 PM
There's another book she wrote too, The Midwifes Apprentice.
Title: Re: For the Brits - opinions solicited!
Post by: hyzenthlay on August 03, 2013, 08:48:41 PM
I just though I'd add that the show 'The Supersizers Go' looked at food during several eras of English history, and does talk about how mush class determined diet.

It's available on both You Tube and Hulu.

(As a side note I think the show 'Are You Being Served' gives some wonderful hints of classism. I recall one episode where Ms. Brahms got very determined about the fact that her family lived in a 'detached house and all!')
Title: Re: For the Brits - opinions solicited!
Post by: kglory on August 03, 2013, 10:25:18 PM
Oh my goodness.  This book sounds fantastic, and my principal will probably let me buy a class set - especially since it's a Newbery book.  This class is only supposed to be a semester long, but the other teacher who I was supposed to "flip" with at semester also has ideas that will take longer than a semester, so we are going to ask our admin if we can just keep our kids the whole year.

Understanding marriage in those times - esp in the upper classes - as a business deal rather than a loving commitment is essential, and you're right about the Tudor fiction - it's great but certainly not appropriate for 12-14 year-olds.

Yay - glad to help!

Your class sounds so fascinating. I would have loved that as a middle schooler.
Title: Re: For the Brits - opinions solicited!
Post by: faithlessone on August 04, 2013, 04:16:17 AM
I just though I'd add that the show 'The Supersizers Go' looked at food during several eras of English history, and does talk about how mush class determined diet.

It's available on both You Tube and Hulu.

Ooh, I'll second this one. Interesting and entertaining!
Title: Re: For the Brits - opinions solicited!
Post by: sunnygirl on August 15, 2013, 10:13:01 AM
I think class is still a huge thing in Britain, but it's incredibly subtle and the class distinctions between working/lower-middle/middle-middle/upper-middle are sometimes more significant than the distinction between the aristocracy and regular people. Though the shadow of the 'old boys network' still casts a shadow over some industries. Being working class isn't necessarily considered a bad or undesirable thing - some 'posh' people (especially in 'hip' industries like the media) pretend to be working class for the cool points, and "middle class" can be a derogatory term - if someone described say the decoration of a house as "very middle class" they'd probably be trying to be insulting. Also, one crucial thing which perhaps not all non-Brits are aware of is that there's no correlation between income and class. There are working class millionaires and upper class paupers - and no one would think someone in the latter category to be less upper class because of their poverty. Though it's likely the child of a working class millionaire may become middle class depending on education and other factors - moving between the classes is complex.

Royalty/aristocracy aren't on most people's radar that much. People might glance at a pic of the royal baby and coo, or have a Royal Wedding celebration, but in day to day terms they aren't that relevant. Kate'n'Wills are treated like any other tabloid-staple celebs except they don't do tabloid-worthy things like Instagram bikini pics or get arrested. I think the Middletons are a good example of British attitudes towards class. Carole was looked down on by the aristocracy for having had a middle class job, whereas regular people couldn't care less. Kate was looked down on by regular people for never having a real job, whereas amongst the aristocracy it would be completely normal for a young woman not to pursue a job or career but just do little bits while waiting to get married.


I POD the recommendation of Kate Fox's book, the very best book about class in Britain. Also Jilly Cooper wrote a non-fiction book called 'Class' which is dated now, but pretty much the definitive work about the UK class system in the 1970s. (I have a PDF of it if anyone would like to read it - I'm not sure how easy it is to get hold of a copy now as it was out of print.) The TV sitcom 'Keeping Up Appearances' is all about British attitudes towards class, especially the relationships between Hyacinth (who is the definitive recently arrived middle-middle woman) and some of the upper-middle acquaintances she's always trying to impress. They got it pretty much bang on. Oh, and the John Betjeman poem 'How To Get On In Society' which is a class satire. A really fantastic book about UK history in general is John O'Farrell's 'An Utterly Impartial History of Britain, or 2000 Years of Upper Class Idiots in Charge.'



Incidentally, my father is from a very old English family - our ancestors were Lords of the Manor in the Middle Ages, though his own upbringing was very humble, and my mother's parents were Eastern European immigrants. So I come from a 'mixed-class' background which is faintly interesting. At least, I think it's given me an interesting perspective on class.