Those darn European kids

Here’s a political theory that my father would term cockamamie, but since I had it while gardening, it might be true. The theory is that the isolationist tendencies of the current (outgoing) administration, particularly of aging Boomers, have roots in what struck me as a concerted efforts of American elementary school teachers to make us resent European kids. 

Now, few of my teachers did this overtly, as in “Europe dragged us into two wars.” True, many might have lost loved ones in the war, but the campaign was more subtle. Here are some main points.

Posture: European kids used knapsacks (ie backpacks). These were uncool when I was in elementary school. You carried your books in your arms in front of you or on the side. European kids carried their books on their backs and hence had beautiful posture

Saturday school: European kids went to school on Saturday. Did they resent this? Oh no, they were only too happy to have one more day to conjugate Latin, charge ahead in mathematics and rack up new languages, in addition to learning the history of all the countries around them.

Respect: European kids respected their elders. Not like us. They never talked back. They shook hands, looked adults in the eye, and said please and thank you in their respective languages. They cheerfully helped with chores, getting up in the dark to help feed chickens, etc. They never asked for expensive toys and earnestly prepared to enter the family business.

Uniforms: European kids didn’t plague their parents to buy new clothes in the latest fashion. No, they donned wore uniforms and sensible shoes, only too grateful to be warm and dry. They took care of their clothes and never lost them.

Table manners: European kids had perfect table manners. They ate everything with a knife and fork. Chicken, fruit, fish. If they had popcorn, they would have used a knife and fork for that.

The classics: European kids didn’t waste their time and minds on animal books or young people’s series. Early on, apparently, our opposite numbers curled up in barely heated rooms, reading Crime and Punishment, The Divine Comedy, and King Lear late into the night.

Diet: European kids ate what was on their plates. They didn’t complain. They never assumed sweet desserts, but were content with a piece of fruit, a few nuts or bit of cheese. They didn’t drink Coke. They much preferred water. Hence they never had cavities. They did drink coffee, which made them short. But then, with fine posture, developed minds, perfect manners, and broad education, being short was no problem. Anyway, their houses were small.

Addendum, I did marry a European, who has fine posture, good manners, a broad education, drank coffee, but is tall. So my theory may in fact be cockamamie.

Pamela Schoenewaldt, historical novels of immigration and the search for self in new worlds: WHEN WE WERE STRANGERS, SWIMMING IN THE MOON, and UNDER THE SAME BLUE SKY (all HarperCollins).

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Posted in WWWS
3 comments on “Those darn European kids
  1. Anonymous says:

    All true! including table manners and Saturday’s at school to study Latin. Probably I did not start drinking coffee that young – this is why I AM (still) tall!

    Sincerely yours
    Pamela’s European husband and former European kid


  2. Anonymous says:

    Obviously, “Saturday’s” is a typo. I do not want readers to think that I wasted my “Saturdays” at school and I am unable to properly handle plurals…

    Sincerely yours
    Pamela’s European husband and former European kid


  3. Anonymous says:

    Fast forward to the 1990s-2000s, and SOME of these points of contention have resolved, though not all.
    -Both European and American kids carried backpacks, although I don’t notice an
    improvement in American posture. Maybe the thing is to have those hard, turtle shell backpacks that are somewhat popular in Europe and not at all in the US?
    -The Saturday school comparison I heard was with Chinese -not European- kids, in line with current geopolitical trends.
    …so maybe a step toward improved transatlantic relations in the future, but maybe not. The fancy healthy diet thing is still a strike against the European kids.


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Sunday, May 6, 2pm reading from latest work at Hexagon Brewing Company, Knoxville, TN.

Thursday, May 10, 6-8 pm presentation on research on the historical novel, Blount County Library, Maryville, TN.

When We Were Strangers, Italian translation, to be presented in Pescasseroli, Italy, August 2018.

Recent Review
“Absorbing and layered with rich historical details, in Under the Same Blue Sky, Schoenewaldt weaves a tender and at times, heartbreaking story about German-Americans during World War I. With remarkable compassion, the author skillfully portrays conflicted loyalties, the search for belonging, the cruelty of war, and the resilience of the human spirit.”—Ann Weisgarber, author of The Promise and The Personal History of Rachel Dupree

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