On our second day we were joined by members of the British Council for School Environments (BCSE).  We met all day at a new Free School that had just taken over a much older school building.  The presentations and panel discussions that day were dedicated to methods of procurement and case studies, and were not terribly different from what we would hear in the United States.  But there was one moment of excitement and confrontation. 

A Tory Member of Parliament (MP) who is on the committee that oversees the English Department of Education described the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) program as a failure.  He said one key reason for that failure is the program is based a false premise.  He stated that the idea that school building design can have a significant impact on education is false.  He said, and I’m paraphrasing here, that everybody knows what matters is the teacher and that everything else pales in comparison therefore the effort to improve education through facility design is misguided and he is very glad the UK has seen the light and moved on.

You could feel the discomfort in the audience, and one Scot rose to challenge him.  In his wonderful brogue, the Scot accused the MP of being a “Philistine.”  I’ve long marveled at how well the English use their language to say the most insulting things to one another and somehow it still sounds civilized, even genteel.  We were treated to a lot of such language that day, laced with many Churchill quotations.  As I didn’t have a speaking role that day, I had no opportunity to share my favorite Churchill quotation, but for the record here it is.  During a debate in Parliament, a female MP told Churchill that “If you were my husband, I’d poison your tea.”  To which Churchill quickly replied “Madame, if you were my wife, I’d gladly drink it.”

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