Friday, May 22, 2015

The British Museum, Magna Carta, and the NHS, Oh, My!

In the last 48 hours, I have witnessed many different aspects of British culture. I spoke to a nurse at University Hospital about the recent election, asking her point blank whether the "Tories were out to destroy the NHS." (Yes, they're evil was the reply). A cabbie shared with us that he often voted Labour, but couldn't this time because of Ed Miliband. I saw British healthcare in action and was generally impressed with my N=1 experience. And I explored human history from its very beginnings in the form of a human axe more than 500,000 years old through the Boumediene v. Bush decision, which was featured at the Magna Carta exhibit in the British Library.

St. Paul's Cathederal
I managed to exhaust 17 college students today as we took our whirlwind tour through world history. In succession, we saw the Rosetta Stone ("Google Translate Old School"), the Elgin Marbles, treasures from Sutton Hoo, Assyrian graffiti, the development of "time" (as a construct and mechanically), and an original copy of Paul McCarthy's lyrics for the Beatles' tune "Yesterday". At the end, we walked wearily to Chinatown for one of the best Chinese meals I've ever had (and with a thirty percent discount given to us by the woman who coaxed us in after the original place we wanted to try was too small to accommodate our group).

The Shard Across the Millennium Bridge
What have we learned? That a document written 800 years ago under duress continues to shape our jurisprudence and our rights--not just in the United Kingdom, but throughout the world. That the best writers of English language became great by editing, editing and editing (we saw drafts of Jane Eyre and Tess of the D'Urbervilles). And, finally, that a little education and teaching can open minds in amazing ways. Not only have my students already begun to question some of their preconceived notions (about food, for example), but so have I. I put the Modern Tate Museum on the schedule because I felt an obligation to introduce my students to modern art--certainly not because I love it. But a 45 minute tour later, and while I still don't understand minimalism, I now have learned to love and understand some modern art.

Tomorrow, the adventure continues....!

At the Tate Modern...

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