But those are symptoms of a philosophical difference. Kids learn very strict rules about behavior (stand behind that yellow line next to the U-bahn! Only cross the street with the light!) and are trained (it’s the only word for it) on how to ride a bike safely and follow the traffic laws. Then, given a framework, they have a lot more freedom than in the us...but the framework is quite rigid. In the US kids don’t even learn how to use cutlery, much less how to weld, somtheir world is, ironically, more circumscribed.
My friend got her driver's license in Germany when she was an adult. It was very expensive and she had to go through several courses. She had to prove that she could drive at night and during the day, and in a dense urban center, and also out on the highways, away from any cities. She was given multiple tests. It was a serious training effort.
This is the paradox of the American emphasis on freedom. The attitude tends to be juvenile. The American mindset, at its crudest, is something like, "You got to give me a car, man, because I'm free, man, I've got freedom, so give me a the right to drive man, authority sucks, man, the government sucks, I'm free so I can drive, you can't stop me, man." So the drivers are untrained, so the government responds by treating all drivers as if they are badly behaving children.
In Germany the attitude is "We (the government) will train you very well, and then we will trust you to be adults who can make wise choices."
One thing I never saw in Germany: cops hiding behind trees, hoping to catch people who were speeding. Traffic cops are very common in the USA, but basically unknown in Germany, since the major highways don't have speed limits.
Another thing I noticed in Germany, where there is a speed limit, people drive that limit, and not 5 kilometers above the speed limit. The drivers make the assumption that the government must have had some good reason for imposing a speed limit.
You won't see them much on the motorway, since for most of it there isn't a speed limit, but radar controls in towns and rural areas are somewhat common.
> Another thing I noticed in Germany, where there is a speed limit, people drive that limit, and not 5 kilometers above the speed limit. The drivers make the assumption that the government must have had some good reason for imposing a speed limit.
You'll literally only ever see that when A) the driver is some old person driving carefully, or B) the area is common for radar controls, or has radar traps installed. The unwritten rule is to drive 10km/hour faster, according to the speedometer, than the speed limit allows, which works out to ~5km/hour over the limit, due to the way speedometers are calibrated.
And there are speed cameras in some of these stretches. I have nasty collection letters from Hertz and Avis to confirm it.
Absolutely. Traffic light timing even takes that into account. Kind of unrelated, sometimes I'm puzzled about how many drivers are eager to be first at the next red light and wait the longest.
France puts equality above all else, and therefore you get "Frenchness" (we are all/should be equally French) above all else, with the accompanying discomfort with competing identities and fixation on the single correct identity.
America, as you correctly described, places freedom on top. It took me a long time to see how putting freedom on top of the stack leads to an insecure and juvenile culture.
And Germany, after the war, it put human dignity on top. This is a quiet, non-ostentatious value to organize society around, that does not advertise itself. But it is very good at quietly producing whole, confident humans.
This is the true value of proper education.  
And this holds in general for all aspects of education, not just school or driver's license.
I never got the "freedom to be stupid" attitude of certain countries.
You can't explain that to somebody who never experienced it, but once you are used to it, you'll miss it immediately once there is a lack of it.
To put a perhaps bad analogy, this is like having no running water, but having the "freedom" to buy 10 different sorts of bottled water to use for showering.
 I'm not saying that the German educational system is perfect, or even remotely the best in Europe. But it is so much better than in most other countries.
 And "proper" education of course includes critical thinking and rudimentary evaluation of information sources. And also I don't mean narrow-minded pseodo-critical thinking, but being able to see through those as well.
One little addition:
I guess the fact that the limits are higher also has some influence on this?
I remember a Dutch engineer telling me that when they increased the speed limits years ago the average speed sunk and it was hypothesized that it was (IIRC) because as the limits became more reasonable more people decided to just follow them.
See the other comments on that people definitely go above posted speed limits, but limits are also not necessarily higher.
Cities are 50kph (30mph) with residential areas often at 30kph (20mph), outside of cities the limits are 80-100kph (50-60mph). You get a lot of 100-120kph (60-75mph) sections on the Autobahn where the otherwise _recommended_ speed is 130kph (80mph) which is when BMWs will be overtaking you at twice that speed on the left lane.
> I remember a Dutch engineer telling me that when they increased the speed limits years ago the average speed sunk and it was hypothesized that it was (IIRC) because as the limits became more reasonable more people decided to just follow them.
I'd assume they meant "rate of speeding violations went down" versus "average speed sunk". The problem with measuring the effect of speed limit changes is that so many things change over the timeframe of the measurement - better vehicle safety, change in traffic rate or overall transportation preference (increase of cyclist in the Netherlands)... studies on this topic are manifold and they all seem to come to rather different conclusions.
Which is weird, I mean just show up at their doorstep or seize their income or something, but then, it's the US so idk.
Maybe this has something to do with the school getting into big trouble when something does happen. I mean we have all heard of legends of the cat and the microwave oven. I guess companies and organizations just get sued over ridiculous things in the US?
I grew up in another European country.
We were allowed to roam around quite freely, keep knives (we even collected and made our own) and even practice with the air rifle since we were kids.
- we were taught the gun rules so thoroughly that I will still get annoyed when I see people waving guns around, even in a movie
- for the longest time my dad refused to buy toy weapons, and to the degree that we managed to get hold of one we were not allowed to point it at others, making it kind of useless.
- and yes, there were rules for the knives as well
My mother, who was a police officer (now retired) brought her gun home on a few occasions, and by that time all the stern toy-gun-lectures had sunken in so deep I found myself reluctant to even go near the thing, e.g. to pick up something lying next to it. Later, I found out that the gun had never been loaded while inside our house. Did not even matter really, I would not have touched it even if I had known that.
RIP: Woodshop, metal shop, automotive classes, electronics labs, marksmanship, Home economics, cooking...defense against the dark arts...
To be clear, I agree with you. High schools in particular should have more hands-on coursework as well as practical skills related to personal finance and statistics.
I can't help but feel that somehow, the dilution of this physical curriculum is somehow a result of the old equality of outcomes vs equality of opportunity debate. It is as if someone perverted the idea that working with your hands as an occupation paid less to meaning that we shouldn't teach it, and therefore everyone will get paid more. I'm not sure that there is a causal link there, but it seems that way to me. Now, we have a dearth of skilled tradesman and we have to hire immigrants with the right skills. (source: have multiple friends/family members in construction, cabinetry, etc.)
The biggest issue I can think of with shooting ranges honestly is not "violence" or danger of accidents, but the problem of lead exposure -- a problem that people were a bit less aware of back in "older times", and a particular problem for developing children. Given some reports I see (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9117191) I personally would not be comfortable with a school shooting range that doesn't try to mitigate this risk.
“freedom” is a reflexive talisman of American identity
So in short I think you can have more freedom in the US if you take it but the regular citizen with a typical employee lifestyle is less free.
But the average US citizen doesn't exercise most of these freedoms but actually lives a more restricted life than the average German citizen in my view.
"several states limit the number of characters that can be used due to the limitations of the software used for official record keeping." and "The Office of Vital Records in California requires that names contain only the 26 alphabetical characters of the English language. Some states (for example, Alaska, Hawaii, Kansas, North Carolina, Oregon) allow accents and some (not always all) non-English letters in birth certificates and other documents."
So, it's a long way from total freedom, but I get your point. However, you can call your kid whatever you want, the limit is simply around what you can do with official paperwork.
(Of course, not everyone conceptualizes "freedom" this way in the US, but it's a depressingly common approach - especially where any sort of political discourse is concerned.)
To ideas that threaten: "You can't make me think that way, I am free to think as I want"
To feelings of discomfort: "It's a free country, I shouldn't have to feel this way"
To physical space: "this is me or my property, I can do what I want with it"
Obviously, when taken in extremes this results in polarization, mischaracterization, and ignorance. Taken responsibly, it is also not appreciably different from any place with a bill of rights. To americans, I would level the criticism that we use it as a crutch and an excuse, more than an ethos, as evidenced that most appeals to freedom are also appeals to the value of self interest.
That's a large part of Antonio Gramsci's concept of cultural hegemony: A special type of agreement, in which the person who's agreeing doesn't necessarily understand what it is with which they're agreeing.
The notion of "rugged individualism" you'll often hear touted ... is in fact a political slogan produced by Herbert Hoover in 1928. This is highly evident from its Ngram trace:
If you look at the early discussion of the term, you'll find much of it is critical. H.L. Mencken speaks of the "curious conception of rugged individualism. It would be much more appropriate to speak about our rugged collectivism."
And yes, it's also true that "American Individualism" predates the term, though the latter is by far the more prevalent today, and both can be traced to what is essentially corporate propraganda.
Emma Rothschild (yes, one of the Rothschilds) makes the explicit point that Adam Smith's "liberal philosophy" was one of material liberty, that is, of an abundance of material wealth at the individual level, which allows for a freedom of actions without catastrophic consequence. Several recent modern commentators have noted that the chief characteristic of poverty is a lack of choice: if there's only one way to do things right, without consequence, you have no freedom.
Which may not be much by way of an answer, though it is an endorsement of the question.
You're dealing with two (probably incompatible) types of freedom.
The freedom you're talking about is the freedom a parent has to leave their kids in a room with a turntable because their children know not to play with things that aren't designed to be toys because they may be delicate and could break.
The freedom you're comparing it to is the freedom a child has to put their hands on a turntable and scratch from an infinite number of rhythmic possibilities to create a new, dynamic form of music where there was previously a single, static form before.
And while you could amend the framework and make a bunch of edge cases for historical shifts in thinking, you cannot make a framework that leaves room for the future shifts because we don't know what those are yet.
Did you really mean welding? I know some 8 year olds that can solder but I've yet to see one that could weld and I only taught my eldest to weld when he was 13 or so.