Perhaps now that I have decided I am leaving, I notice these things more...
Two social workers were discussing Florida, as one will be vacationing there next week. She spoke of having moved in and out of there as a child, because her flighty, alcoholic mother was always chasing one dream or another. She hadn't liked Florida, finding the schools always behind and the other children dull, and disliking the summer temperature. She sees it differently as an adult. This launched the other social worker into the general anti-intellectualism of the south. She reported that her 13 y/o daughter had played some Family-Feud style game at school and had to list three things about the South. Daughter had said "Civil War," "backwardness," and "racism," none of which had gotten any points. But mother was pleased, beaming, that her daughter "got it."
Being me, I noted that test scores state-to-state were remarkably similar by race, and places like Arkansas weren't actually miles behind nice places like New Hampshire. They both looked shocked that I could say such a horrible thing, so I segued quickly into how much a focus in education and research the testing-gap problem is.
It is interesting that the one very liberal group, social workers, is largely unaware of a significant focus of another very liberal group, education researchers and administrators, in dealing with the same issues. What educators simply know and try enormously to fix is regarded as so unacceptable it cannot even be said among social workers. There is a cognitive dissonance waiting to happen here.
A few minutes later, two nursing instructors I had never met were discussing a recently-admitted young college student from a small foreign country. I had done the admission a week ago, so I knew the situation. He has taken to smoking weed instead of going to classes over the last year, and will not graduate this spring. He has also been quite psychotic the last four months. The school is trying to drag him over the finish line by helping him complete courses online and meet once a week with his professors. Some of the professors are balking because he has been violent. Plus, he is in no way completing anything like an adequate amount of course work. They are attempting to have some standards. It looks like they might not be allowed to.
The nursing instructors were applauding the college for working so hard with the professors to allow the boy to finish college. I commented that a lot of colleges welcomed foreign students because they paid, and didn't want to move away from a cash crop. One instructor agreed - she had been an administrator at a college in Vermont, and noted that the paying-customer aspect was an open secret. But, she thought, it's all good, because we have so little diversity up here and it's good to have other cultures. I chuckled that I find diversity over-rated as an educational experience. Again, horrified looks. I went on to explain that my Romanian sons were pretty happy with the cultural things they had been able to leave behind.
Yeah, I get that same we-find-it-distasteful-to-argue, but we're-not-sure-how-to-deal-with-this look all the time.
Additional: Oh yeah, I forgot an important comment about the first story. When we compare the situation we are familiar with with a new situation, we have an automatic and seldom-noticed bias. We have already categorised the old group and divided it into important versus unimportant categories. The new situation is an undifferentiated mass. Our sample is skewed.
My best friend in high school transferred from Manchester, NH to the University of South Carolina. When I saw him in Manchester over Christmas he kept insisting how much prettier the girls were down south. As evidence, he pointed to a short elderly woman in a schlumpfy coat waddling down the main street, and several other out-doing-errands-on-Tuesday women. Well of course, if your standard of comparison is a college campus versus daytime downtown, the college girls are going to look way more attractive. He wasn't comparing apples to apples with downtown Columbia, or oranges to oranges of Notre Dame College in the North End. You might still give the nod to the southern girls in the end, but it's at least a fair comparison. So too when people on conservative blog sites compare kids today, and schools today, with their own memories of high school or the family stories of how granddad got his engineering degree while working 80 hours a week as a farrier. Those aren't the same people. The smart kids remember their smart friends and how everyone learned trigonometry then. The dumb kids of the 1950's who didn't read well aren't commenting about education on blog sites these days.
Thus, if you are an above-average student, every average school district you move into is going to seem below average. In your old district, you already mentally eliminated those other kids and hardly noticed them anymore, unless there was something remarkable about them like violence or everyone in the family being doltish.
BTW, I remember them, and they don't go to the reunions, and so are progressively even more forgotten. The popular kids remember each other. Only a few of us remember the unpopular ones - mostly because we just remember things, not because we made some noble moral effort.