Turn your school into Paris

The great literary critic George Steiner writes, somewhere, that just walking through the streets of Paris during his childhood was an education and an inspiration. Nearly every street and square in the city is named after someone who made a difference: scientists, poets, politicians, generals, intellectuals, labour leaders, architects, and on and on. Every intersection offers a new opportunity to remember someone notable, or to be introduced to someone notable.

What if your school were like that? What if the institutional corridors with bland descriptions like “North Wing” or even more nondescript labels like “BN300″—what if all those hallways and common areas were named after famous people, people students ought to know about but far too often don’t? What if the names and why they are notable were explained on wall plaques? What if the building itself, in other words, were enlisted in the effort to transmit a sense of history and culture to young people?

And why is such an opportunity so often missed?

Just wondering.

UPDATE 26 October 2011

I just came across this piece about “stolperstein“, brass plaques embedded in walkways all over Europe commemorating Holocaust victims. This could be used in schools, too, not to commemorate victims, but to honour great writers, thinkers, scientists, etc. There is a limited number of hallways and common rooms in any school, but a nearly unlimited amount of floor space.

2 comments to Turn your school into Paris

  • This is a lovely wondering. Last year a good friend of mine staged a “hall of history,” transforming the school cafeteria into a series of living tableaus, researched, developed, and performed by students, presenting glimpses of various time periods and events. Visitors to the “hall” could touch any figure in a tableaux and hear him speak, in character, about the scene.

    I’ll take this opportunity to thank you for the rich resource of your website and shared materials. I’ve acknowledged you on our fledgling class blog. So far, amazing.

  • Eric

    Hi Judith,

    Thanks so much! I’m very happy to hear that someone is finding useful things here ;^).

    Best wishes,


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