Saturday, November 03, 2007

More on What (Not) to Say: American Education

Say No More

I read a provocative blog post this morning that talks about the criminal code in the US that (this blogger claims) has an effect on our personal relationships:

EVERYONE who lives in the USA knows that "we have the right to remain silent." That little prayer is from something called the Miranda ruling by the Supreme Court. If you get arrested, the cops have to advise you that you have the right to not testify against yourself, which is protected by the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution. The "Miranda warning" typically includes something like, "Anything you say can be used against you in court."

Bush and the Patriot Act seem relatively recent, and the widespread fear of being watched, held, saying the wrong thing in the US seems relatively recent.

However, I'd never thought about the Miranda Rights' potential influence on the American psyche, particularly when teaching children what's possible. American crime television and cinema often ends with the crook being caught with this particular mantra heard over a din (and it is chanted like a mantra).

After the British press yesterday reported that interventions in primary education have failed and testing is not useful (is anyone who isn't a politician surprised?), it's clearly not only Americans who need to encourage children to know what they think, say what they know, and not be afraid to see what others don't.

For Americans (and Viewers of American Crime Drama), What Alternative?

The idea wouldn't seem quite so provocative if it weren't for this question: what common chants encourage us to say what we think without threat of recrimination? And what implications does this have for kids who watch TV for much longer (and often much earlier) than they read?

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