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Taxes and welfare, and gourmet food in school cafeteria in France:
I entered a small village in rural Normandy and went to one of the finest kitchens in the country to see how they prepare a gourmet meal. By my standards, it was a three, maybe a four-star kitchen. It was definitely the best place to eat in town. It was the school cafeteria.
Here's how much the average working American pays in income and social security taxes. And those taxes get us the basic services-- police, fire, roads, water, war, and bank bailouts. And here's what the average French worker pays in taxes. A little more than we do. And for paying just a little bit more, they, too, get the basic services, but they also get all this extra stuff. We can get some of that stuff, too, but we have to pay extra. And when we pay extra, we don't call it a tax. We call it tuition and day care fees and the nursing home bill and copays and deductibles and on and on and on. We don't call them taxes, but they are, ...
Finland's schools are all public:
It is illegal in Finland to set up a school and charge tuition. That's why, for the most part, private schools don't exist. And what that means is that the rich parents have to make sure that the public schools are great. And by making the rich kids go to school with everyone else, they grow up with those other kids as friends. And when they become wealthy adults, they have to think twice before they screw them over. In the United States, education is a business. They're corporations making money.
Many of these things that have made Finland perform well in education are initially American ideas. We try to teach them to think for themselves and to be critical to what they're learning. We try to teach them to be happy person, to be-- respect others and respect yourself. You're concerned with their happiness.
Slovakia's higher education:
Deep in the heart of the eastern slopes of the Alps is the home of Rapunzel and Sleeping Beauty-- Slovenia. Not Slovakia, Slovenia. Actually, much of Slovenia's mail gets missent to Slovakia, but that's not why I'm here. Slovenia is a magical fairyland home to the rarest of mythical creatures-- a college student with no debt.
I think-- the thing is that here, education is really seen as something that's really a public good, and the issue is once you start charging foreign students for education, you automatically open up the idea that you can charge everyone. And as soon as anyone starts paying tuition, the entire idea of "free university for everyone" is under threat. That changes the nature of school being a public good.
The idea of making college free and not sending 22-year-olds into a debtors' prison... was something I could definitely take back to the United States.
The latest area that German workers have advocated for is how they're to be treated during their free time when they're not at work. It is against the law in Germany to contact an employee while he or she is on vacation. And now many companies in Germany have adopted the rule that the company cannot send an e-mail to employees after work.
At Mercedes, the company's computers will block any boss who tries to bother an employee at home.
Every day in Germany, in every school, they teach the young what their predecessors did.
-We had the chance to meet survivors and they told us their stories. And, yeah, you can't forget it.
They don't whitewash it. They don't pretend it didn't happen. They don't say, "Hey, that was before my time. What's this got to do with me? I didn't kill anyone."
Decriminalization of drug usage in Portugal:
Portugal, like most countries, had a war on drugs. And, like most countries, they were losing that war. So they decided to try something new. It's my understanding that you don't arrest people for using drugs anymore. No? Heroin? Pot? Meth? Pills? Nothing? If I told you I had cocaine on me right now, you wouldn't do anything? …- No? Okay.
When you think about drug users, everybody thinks about those small 10% that are causing problems. People don't think about the 90% of people that are not causing any troubles although they are using illicit substances.
-People that are using drugs might be causing harm...
Causing harm to themselves, but not necessarily to others.
-...but not necessarily to others. I mean, they may be bringing sadness to their marriage or their family or...
-So? So does Facebook. Are we going to illegalize it?
Norway prison or country club:
Warden, where's the punishment? Where is the punishment?
-The main idea is we're just supposed to take away their freedom. That's the only punishment we're actually giving them. They miss their family, they miss their friends. Right, right. But also I think and I hope when you speak to them, they will also feel that we're trying to help them back to the same society.
You know, this is gonna be very hard for Americans to see this. This looks very strange to understand why you're doing it, why you do your prison system this way.
-We have to show more love and affection for each other, to take care of each other in another way.
This is the way.
-Yeah. This is a sense of life, you know? If we showed a little more love and affection and kindness toward each other...
Tunisian on Americans:
Americans are lucky. They are-- they belong to the most powerful country in the world. But being the strongest one maybe stopped them from being just curious. I know a lot about you guys. I know your music from the '70s until today. I dance on your music. I speak, as much as I can, your language. I know Henry Miller, Kerouac, Scott Fitzgerald. I wear your clothes. I eat your food. But I also have my culture. What do you know about my culture? Or Estonian culture? Or Zimbabwean culture? I read an interesting article about the average time an American spends watching the Kardashian show. Why do you spend your time for this? You invented the most powerful weapon in the world-- it's Internet, guys. Use it the right way. ...
Women in businesses, Iceland:
Research has shown us that-- and this is international research-- that once you have three women in the boardroom, that's when culture starts changing. Not when you have one or two. Because one is a token and two is a minority. But once you have three, it all of a sudden changes the group dynamics, it changes how the dialogue is taken, what is discussed, and it's been well shown that that goes beyond the balance sheet when you have more women around the table. They start asking more about all stakeholders, and this is what I call a different moral and ethical compass. And I think this is extremely valuable today. And I actually don't think you can survive long-term in business without doing this today.
Parting thoughts P1 of 2:
We discussed all the great things I had taken from my invasions, but I began to lament that the American dream seemed to be alive and well everywhere but America. It was then that Rod reminded me that he and I and most of our generation went to college for practically free. He reminded me that the Finnish education chief had said that their education ideas were American ideas, and that May Day didn't begin in Moscow or Lisbon, it began in Chicago in 1886. That's where the fight for the eight-hour day and a vacation came from-- American unions. The fight for the E.R.A. began eight years before Iceland elected the first female president.
Parting thoughts P2 of 2:
The same thing with the Norwegian prison warden, that the idea of no cruel or unusual punishment was ours. And it was our state, Michigan, that became the first English-speaking government in the world to eliminate the death penalty. And the special prosecutor in Iceland, he based his whole investigation and prosecution of the bankers on our savings and loan scandal back in the '80s. Even hired an American to help him with it. These weren't European ideas. These weren't new ideas. These were our ideas. We didn't need to invade all these countries to steal their ideas. They were already ours. We didn't need to invade. We just needed to go to the American lost and found.
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Finland succeeds with no homework and fewer lessons:
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