March 12, 2003
Bring on the Afghans!

Here's another little snippet from my conversations last weekend. My Kent teacher friend told me that the attitude of your average teacher towards immigrants and asylum seakers is: bring 'em on. He has some Afghans in his class, and they are by far the most studious of his students. He recalled a day when one of them stayed behind after a lesson had finished, to finish some work. The locals would never do such a thing. The Afghans, he reports, are decidedly critical of the locals for their educational indolence.

What's going on here? Partly, it is surely that immigrants and asylum seakers are often thoroughly superior people compared to your local yobbos, educationally speaking. We're talking doctors and lawyers and clerics, who are merely disguised temporarily as cabbies for the first generation of their time in England, but who will soon be reverting to type and sending their kids to posh schools where they'll feel more at home.

But I think something else is involved here. The Third World is now famously more enthusiastic about education, and is now famously more willing to pay the price for it, whether that's a cash price or a discipline price, than is the First World. Why? Well, how about that in the Third World the penalties for doing nothing very much with your life are so much more severe than they are in the First World, and immigrants from the Third to the First World bring the educational attitude that is caused by this economic fact with them. And how about that the economic benefits of education in the Third World are greater than they are here. As a result, the Prussian System of education, as I've been calling it here, still works well in the Third World, whereas it is increasingly obsolete here.

In a couple of generations, there could be a summersault. The Prussian System could by then have collapsed here, and been replaced by something a lot more voluntaristic and a lot better. Meanwhile, the Prussian System could be just entering its decadent phase in the Third World, while still being at the stage of the Third World equivalents of Daily Mail readers confining themselves (as here now) to saying that the only answer to the problems of the Prussian System is to make it more Prussian, by, I don't know, recruiting new teachers from Prussia, by imposing Prussian Drill classes on bad pupils, etc.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 01:20 PM
Category: History