The Mashantucket Pequot Museum, One of the Great New England Museums

The Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center, in Mashantucket, Connecticut, is without doubt the world’s largest and most comprehensive Native American museum and research center in existence today, and most certainly one of the great New England museums, if not one of the greatest in the entire nation.

In an independent survey, nine out of ten visitors rated the museum, “Better than the best museum they had visited in the past 5 years.”

Of it,” several highly reputable media outlets say: “[It] sets a new standard for user-operated media” – The Boston Globe; “An immediate hit with families” – New York Magazine; and, “Magnificent, [it] brings the Native American story vividly to life” – Connecticut Magazine.

This museum has collected, cataloged and meticulously chronicled a bygone culture, giving new life to a Pequot tribe that struggled hard against extinction.

In fact, it offers more resources and learning opportunities vis-a-vis Native Americans than does even the Smithsonian.

It and its Website provide a mother lode of information, not just about the Pequot Tribe, but all Native American cultures as is evidenced by the following:

“Our ancestors can no longer speak for themselves. It is up to us to speak for them. If they could speak today, they would say, ‘Look at this museum. They have not forgotten us. We have survived,'” says Wilma Mankiller, former principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation.

In all, there are four full acres of permanent, extravagantly detailed exhibits and two libraries, one for children, which offer a remarkable selection of materials detailing the histories of all Native peoples in both the U.S. and Canada.

There are also in-depth descriptions of how all of the Native nations and tribes interpret everything from daily living to creation, which offer fascinating insights into how their cultures evolved.

Many of the exhibits are life-size dioramas that provide robust and fascinating representations of how the Pequots lived over time and under very difficult and challenging conditions, especially when ice covered much of the continent.

They amply demonstrate the extraordinary adaptive genius of a people whose knowledge and wits not only helped them survive adversity but thrive through it.

In addition, natural history is engagingly traced over thousands of years to provide a holistic understanding of the Native American experience.

There are also ample opportunities for learning through interactive experiences, including your family’s participation in local archeological digs or making bags from buckskin, among many others.

As far as educational excellence goes, if museums were universities, The Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center would be Harvard, Yale and Stanford combined.

The museum generously documents every detail of the origins, fall and rise of the Pequots, who have, since the 1960s, reclaimed some of their land on which they have cleverly built Foxwoods Casino and Resort, a success story worthy of the utmost admiration.

In fact, Foxwoods has awakened surrounding communities, sleepy shoreline towns mostly, by providing invigorated economies that never existed before and single-handedly revived flagging tourism in Southeastern Connecticut.

A visit to what one newspaper called the “most ambitious new museum in America” is both educational and fun, and a must for anyone interested in the true history of this country, as well as one of the truly great New England museums.

Due to the sheer volume of information and number of activities available at this remarkable institution, I would recommend a visit to the museum’s Website to plan out your outing before you go.

Church of England School

About one fourth of all primary schools in England are Church of England schools. Most British citizens believe that receiving and education from a CE School is important for children to be able to learn and develop a sense of what is right and wrong. Individuals also believe that these students will receive a finer education and evolve into a responsible member of their society.

There are three different categories of schools located throughout England. The first one is called voluntary aided; the school is owned by the church and the governing body of the church handles all school operations from appointing teachers to raising money to aid in the repairs of school buildings.

The second category is the voluntary controlled, where the school is owned by the church and it appoints its own overseers. However, the school board is not totally loaded with church members, and the teachers are not appointed by the church board. Rather the teachers are hired by the local education authority who also oversees any repairs to school buildings as needed. The last type is the foundation, where a foundation owns the school and the foundations board employs the teachers and other staff and oversees all school operations.

The Church of England is also in the first throes of a major expansion project, hoping to open over 100 additional schools. Currently as of 2004 approximately 25 of these schools had been opened with another 15 of them almost completed. Because of the popularity of catholic education, such expansion is possible and needed to provide the education for British children across that country.

The admission policy in England is pretty straight forward. The board will admit students of all faiths provided there is not a shortage of available spaces in the school system. If there is a shortage, preference will be given to students who are, of course, from the catholic faith, and then to students who have excellent academic records, and go on from there. In some locations, scholarships are available to the families of students who excel in academics but cannot afford to pay for a private education.

There are some myths of catholic education. For example many individuals do not believe that catholic schools educate children on the topic of sexual education. In fact, there are requirements that this topic is taught as part of each school’s science curriculum. The catholic school system has also been accused of not wanting to educate children who are of different faiths. That too is a myth. Of course, the church believes in the religious education of all children, particularly the catholic faith. However, children of all faith are welcome to the system, as are children who express no faith at all.

The catholic way of education has been founded in history in the country of England, going back to the legendary kings of England who were the heads of the Catholic Church. The catholic education of England’s children remains a very popular educational system.

Colin Baker and the Bilingual Education

Colin Baker is perhaps best known for being the author of a widely read textbook on bilingual education, Foundations of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, which has undergone four editions. The book has sold over 60,000 copies and has been translated into Japanese, Spanish, Latvian, Greek, and Mandarin.

For Baker, early experience was no predictor of his later career. Born on October 1, 1949, in Danbury, a hilltop village in southeastern England, he remembers only one bilingual person in that village. She was a Belgian refugee speaking French and English, considered by villagers as “different.” In elementary school, teachers and students were monolingual English speakers, matching his nuclear and extended family.

In high school, Baker learned Latin and French through the grammar-translation method. Conversational French was regarded as nonacademic and insufficient as a brain-developing activity; hence, it was largely avoided. All students were native English speakers and were required to use a prestigious variety called “the Queen’s English.”

Despite encouragement from his high school principal to attend a top English university, Baker’s main interest was walking mountains. Having traversed the highest peaks in England, he wished to walk the higher Welsh mountains. Bangor is located very near those mountains, and Bangor University became Baker’s home. The university overlooks a small city. The many surrounding villages are populated with bilinguals, with the great majority of the indigenous population speaking both Welsh and English fluently and some immigrants from England learning Welsh for employment or cultural enjoyment.

University students can take some humanities subjects through the medium of Welsh, and bilingual education is predominant in all elementary and most high schools. In this context, bilingualism is a natural topic for study. One of Baker’s tutors, W. R. Jones, was a world expert on the relationship between bilingualism and IQ and on empirical studies of the effectiveness of bilingual education. Jones also taught Baker advanced statistical analysis for his PhD, although Jones’ “teaching” mostly meant Baker’s self-teaching.

Thus, for young Baker, the foundations had been laid. Another event was probably more influential in precipitating a lifelong interest in studying bilingualism. As a freshman, Baker sang in a church choir and fell in love with his future wife across the choir stalls. Anwen was the daughter of the pastor of that church, and her family lived their lives speaking mostly Welsh. Students were warmly welcomed to the house, and Baker found a second home.

The seamless and effortless movement in that family between two languages, two literacies, and two cultures was in stark contrast to monolingual Danbury. The diversity and value-addedness of bilingualism became apparent and appealing. In years to come, it bore fruit in a thoroughly bilingual Baker household, with three children who were educated in two languages.