My wife and I are almost through the third and final season of the Canadian Broadcasting Company and Netflix’s “Anne with an E,” the wonderful latest dramatization of the first of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s “Anne of Green Gables” books. In an episode we saw the other day, Anne and her classmates are at a beach to celebrate the completion of the college entrance exam they have taken earlier that day. Sharing a bottle of white spirits of some kind that has launched them into high hilarity, they begin playing Red Rover. So that particular kids’ game is in my head right now.
Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again!” slogan has it almost right. His idea seems to be that our country was once great and then, at the hands of poor leaders (read “Democrats” and especially his immediate predecessor), slipped into mediocrity. Yet in the nearly three-and-a-half years of President Trump’s administration, we have seen “greatness” in areas where it is not so desirable. For example, we’ve experienced an ever-greater divide between the wealthy few and the worse-off many. Although not his fault, we’ve seen the greatest pandemic to hit our country and the world since the Spanish Flu of a century ago. Moreover, despite our enviable health-care system, America, with 5% of the world’s population, has had nearly a third of all Covid-related deaths. There are also areas where the U.S. is painfully mediocre. This year we’re 25th internationally in education (https://worldpopulationreview.com/countries/education-by-country/), 33rd in infant mortality (2018 figure from https://worldpopulationreview.com/countries/infant-mortality-rate-by-country/), and 19th in the World Happiness Report for 2019 (https://worldhappiness.report).
So where does Red Rover come in? Okay, as reported in an earlier blog, I was permanently disabused of my belief that America was the best in everything when I spent my junior year of college in Germany. More recently, I was so impressed by Michael Moore’s 2015 documentary “Where to Invade Next” that it became one of the very few films I own. In case you haven’t see it, do so ASAP. In it he visits a number of European countries and one North African one in each of which there is some public policy or arrangement that is clearly superior to our equivalent here. For example, an elementary school in rural France has gourmet-quality food for lunch, a time when the teachers help their young charges learn some of the finer points of enjoying a good meal. Or Moore discovers that the University of Ljubljana, capital of Slovenia, provides a totally free education even for foreign students, with some 200 programs taught in English. If I were younger, I’d start a Best Practices website featuring such things for copying or local adaptation. Alas, if countries, especially ours, were only humble enough to learn from others. Red Rover, Red Rover...