What’s Wrong with London? A half-serious response to Richard Dawkins
I’m not on twitter, so I can’t tweet, but if I were a twit I would tweet this tweet: All the graduates of publicly funded schools in London have fewer Nobel prizes than the graduates of New York City Public Schools.
There, I said it. I even put it in bold. I am braced for the accusations of cultural imperialism and racism that are sure to follow. On the accusation of racism let me defend myself by pointing out that all graduates of publicly funded schools in London are not the same race. Although London is associated in the world-wide popular mind with the indigenous island race popularly called Britons, itself a dubious admixture of Celts, Germans, Normans and an itty bitty bit of Roman, and probably a few other things they’d rather not talk about like those “little people”, it should be pointed out that residency in London is not, and really never has been, the exclusive property of Britons. Secondly, I have been told that my family has more than a drop of British blood, or at least it is presumed due to the surfeit of surnames that read like a seventeenth century career guide: Farmer, Cooper, Fletcher, Weaver, Smith and others. Just because I am not exclusively of British descent does not make me a “self-hating Briton.” In my entirely objective and unbiased evaluation of myself, I am entirely fair-minded and even-handed in my treatment of Britons. I treat them just like human beings, which I should point out they are.
But the lack of Noble Prizes among the graduates of the publicly funded schools in London is just a fact. Surely it is only in the interest of Londoners themselves to ask how and why their culture is failing them. The indigenous people of the British Isles once had a great culture. They hauled big rocks and put them in a circle, or something like that.
Richard Dawkins pointed out the other day, “All the world’s Muslims have fewer Nobel Prizes than Trinity College, Cambridge. They did great things in the Middle Ages, though.”
Writing in the Guardian, Nesrine Malik said, “To wearily engage with his logic briefly: yes, it is technically true that fewer Muslims (10) than Trinity College Cambridge members (32) have won Nobel prizes. But insert pretty much any other group of people instead of “Muslims”, and the statement would be true. You are comparing a specialised academic institution to an arbitrarily chosen group of people. Go on. Try it. All the world’s Chinese, all the world’s Indians, all the world’s lefthanded people, all the world’s cyclists.”
So I did. Or more accurately I tried to try it. I wondered how my people, the people of New Jersey, fared. I suspected with Princeton and the former Bell Labs and the highest average level of education in the U.S. we would fare very well on a world-wide scale. So I took to the internet in search of information. If you are from New Jersey, it will not surprise you that everywhere I looked I saw references to New York City, New York City, New York City. I abandoned my people and decided to settle on New York City Public High School graduates as my arbitrarily chosen group of people. I failed Nesrine Malik’s test. When substituting “New York City Public High School graduates” for “Muslims” I came up with an untrue statement. Forty (40) graduates of the New York City Public High School system have won Nobel Prizes. So take that Trinity.
Then I thought, that’s not fair. New York City public high schools (For British readers, U.S. public schools are public, unlike British public schools which are private. In other words, they are funded by the public and open to the public.) probably contain more people than Trinity college. So, let’s compare like to like. What about the graduates of publicly funded high schools in London? How many Nobel prize winners are there. I couldn’t find a complete list, but so far it doesn’t look good. Furthermore, all of the New York City Nobel Laureates didn’t attend Bronx Science. Richard Feynman went to Far Rockaway. Far Rockaway, folks! The six people listed who received their secondary education in London did not attend publicly funded schools.
It is high time the British people did some serious soul-searching. All residents of the islands, not least of all the indigenous Britons, would benefit.
(Full disclosure: I once had a boyfriend from Rockaway Beach who graduated from Far Rockaway High School.)
Great post. Richard Dawkins should keep to writing books and essays, twitter appears not to be his turf! He keeps having to explain himself fairly often he should have learnt to avoid such faux pas
As a verbose person, I don’t tweet myself. I’m sure I’d be offending people left and right if I tried. Twitter is downright dangerous for some people.
Still, I was secretly pleased to see that New York City does so well. I know I’m from New Jersey, but just across the river only fifteen miles away and the culture is very similar. It’s not the super ignorant, bible-thumping part of the country that seems to take up so much space in everyone’s imagination. Not that I don’t have complaints. People from New Jersey may be among the most aesthetically challenged people on the planet. They have no fashion sense whatsoever. They’d do well to take up nudism. 😉
I tweet once in a while, but mostly it’s just my posts here that go direct to my twitter feed.
Am not sure my university has a Nobel in the sciences except for the peace laureate who passed on a while ago.
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