As I’ve mentioned before, Offspring 2 attends Swiss public school. He’s in first grade and 6 years old. Cutoff for the school year is the middle of May, and so half of the class is 7 and the other half is 6. He’s in the younger half. (In fact, he missed the cutoff by one day, but we petitioned the school board to let him into kindergarten “early” so that he would be more likely to learn the language, so he’s the absolute youngest in his class.) Anyway, I want to be clear that these are very little kids. (Well, except for Offspring 2, who is at the 50th percentile in height and weight–for a 9 year old. He’s always been big.)

Anyway, last week we got a note home asking us to send in the following this morning:

  • ein spitzes Messer mit kurzer Klinge (wenn möglich ohne Zacken)
  • ein Apfel-/Melonenlöffel oder ein Kaffeelöffel mit scharfer Kante

Now, I assume most of my readers don’t speak German, so here’s a picture of what I sent him:


And, in reality, the spoon isn’t quite what they asked for. It’s neither a melon baller nor a spoon with sharp edge, but honestly, I don’t own either one of those things, and I’m too cheap to go out and buy one for a school project. (That and I procrastinated pulling this together until 10 minutes before he had to leave for school.) They are carving Turnips for the annual “Räbeliechtliumzug.” Translation? Lighted turnip parade. (Google Translate won’t do it for you, as it’s Swiss German and Google Translate doesn’t speak Swiss German.)

Totally cool.

But, the whole thing makes me realize the stark contrast between the Swiss schools and the American schools. I’m afraid the police would be called if I sent him to an American school with a “sharp knife with a short blade.” Of course, he probably would have been expelled from the public schools years ago for the “bomb” he made in Kindergarten. Since it was out of cardboard, paper, and glue, his kindergarten teacher just made sure he knew the German word for bomb. As a result, he’s learned the important lesson that just because you call something a bomb doesn’t make it a bomb. Also, that a bunch of 6 year olds are unlikely to cause death and destruction with paring knives. I presume the teacher has a supply of Bandaids on hand.

No real career advice (although, feel free to draw your own conclusions about what the utter paranoia and the inability to distinguish between real and imagined danger in America). Just a peek into life here.

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18 thoughts on “Yet Another Swiss Schools Post

  1. What immediately strikes me is the lack of “exaggerated fear” that American schools now possess. Europe, and Africa for that matter, have always had threats of war, bombs, acts of terrorism and the like and yet this ridiculous level of fear has not crept into the schools or life in general in the way that it has in America. It would be wonderful if there was a way to stem this tide!

    1. It is a ridiculous level of fear. I mean really, can a 6 year old slaughter his entire class with a paring knife? Not even if the teachers left the rooms.

      I admit, my American mommy instinct has to be quashed from time to time to let the rational side take over.

  2. Our schools fail our children in teaching in one very critical skill. That skill is how to think for yourself. We teach our children what to think instead of how to think. And if your child doesn’t fit the pigeon hole of what a “good” student is, look out because the school will not honor students who thinks for themselves, after all, the teacher never leaned this skill and doesn’t understand it.

  3. My 13 year old is dissecting a frog in science tomorrow. But they’re not allowed to use scalpels. Not even the ridiculously dull ones we used when I was in 7th grade, which were like hacking the frog apart with a butter knife. They’re using rounded-tip scissors instead. I can’t imagine that’s going to go well.

    1. Oh, good heavens. I can only *imagine* the gore that will result. It’s going to be waaaay more traumatic to all this way.

      I’d also be willing to bet this brilliant idea is the administration’s, not that of the poor science teacher who gets to watch a class of 13-year-olds do awful, awful things with paper scissors and frogs. Ew.

    2. Round tipped scissors? My former workplace was in the process of completely banning all scissors around the time I quit. The safety officer was insane, and flat out terrorized workers in the pursuit of her zero-incident workplace. Had we been a frog -dissection company all work involving cutting would have been contracted out.

      The job paid around 54k a year but I quit with nothing else lined up and remained jobless for 8 months just so I didn’t have to work in a place where extension cords were banned, people received verbal warnings for adding paper to the copy machine without “proper safety training”, eating lunch on the nice green hillside outside was prohibited (trip and insect bite hazards) and coworkers written up for having bottles of bug repellent for personal use on property without an MSDS.

      I refused the exit interview, because I wouldn’t have been able to keep my cool. I really couldn’t figure out a nice way to say “I’m sorry but I can’t work in a place this stupid.”

      I cringe at the idea of raising children in this nation.

  4. My children attend public school in Southern Ontario, only a 1 hour drive from the United States. We have a lot of American influence over us in this part of the world, but thankfully we still have what I feel are our more reasonable ways of approaching things. My 7 year old also took a paring knife to school to carve pumpkins and lived to tell the tale.
    There is a fantastic website called Free Range Kids that you might like.

      1. She has helped me keep my sanity a few times when people around me are wringing their hands in worry.

  5. I’m a non-parent by choice, but I work at a school, and I sometimes can’t believe the things that happen (or don’t) in the name of safety. It’s amazing the difference in parents today from when I was growing up (which, luckily, wasn’t all too long ago…yet).

    The other day, my husband and I were watching a show about people looking at houses to buy, and the lady kept saying things like “Oh no! A rock fireplace? The kids will ram their heads right into it!” or “A sunken living room? The kids will just keep falling down those stairs into the space!” or “Hardwood floors throughout? The kids will slip and fall and have nowhere soft to land!” After about a dozen such comments, I finally looked at my husband and said, “How stupid are her kids? And why would they just ram their heads into a stone wall?” (I did think about kids who think that those big, round cement balls at Target are rubber balls, but I can kind of understand that: it looks like a ball. A rock fireplace does not look like a soft place to ram your head at all.)

    Side note: I absolutely love reading these posts of yours about the differences in the school systems and societies in general. I pass them along to friends and family to hear their reactions, and many also wonder why we can’t be more logical like this.

    1. I saw one the other day. The house had 4 steps from the kitchen to the bedroom level. The wife deemed it was too many and she’d probably fall down them. OMG.

    2. Wow based on the comments from that women, my Aspberger’s son (now 23) and Bi-Polar Daughter (now 21) should not have made it to kindergarten. My whole house is hard wood floors, they were raised around a stone fire place! I think I first noticed the “big” changes in school when my son was Darth Vader one year, and I had to go pick up his light saber or they were going to kick him out of school. (Zero tolerance) Ended up picking up his friend’s hockey stick too! (Guess a Gretzky costume can cause children to be violent.. who knew?)

    3. I think that if that episode were a drinking game of “what other ridiculous things will this woman say about houses pertaining to her kids’ safety and health” we would’ve been drunk in the first fifteen minutes (of a 45 minute show, sans commercials). She also worried about a chain link fence and how they could hurt themselves on that. I had to have my husband repeat that, because I had missed part of it. I thought she was worried about the kids climbing on it (I totally climbed anything I could as a kid), but she was just worried that it was a metal fence. She decided they didn’t need a dining room (which is fair enough, if you don’t want a formal dining room), because she needed a play room for the kids where she could always see them from the kitchen. The formal dining room was basically just a really nice room with a gorgeous chandelier strewn with toys.

      Actually, that isn’t just her. There seems to be this thing where kids can’t play in their own houses without direct sight-lines to parents anymore, because many of them on this show are looking for open floor plans or a play room right off the kitchen, specifically so they can keep an eye on their playing children at all times. The play room can’t be in another part of the house, because then they don’t know what the kids are doing at all times.

      I don’t know about anyone else, but my mom sent us to play in our room when she was doing stuff around the house. If it was nice out, she’d send us outside to run around or climb trees or whatever we could get up to. I don’t even know if she knew what room we were in or where in the yard we were most of the time, but I imagine being that hyper-vigilent for parents these days must be exhausting.

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