Saturday, February 24, 2007

French Schooling for Agitated Vandals

via Clarity's Place, an interview with Fields Medalist Laurent Lafforgue on the decline of education in France:
Look, the problem of the transmission of tradition and knowledge isn’t a problem; it’s the problem of our civilization. I recently participated in a public debate on school. My interlocutor, the famous Professor Alain Viala, was a man of letters who is very much in style these days, a professor at the Sorbonne, chock-full of all the titles and honors possible. Well, in his course on French Literature, this great professor doesn’t have students read one work–not even one, you understand?–of French literature. To pass the exam in French Literature you needn’t read even one line of Montaigne, Racine, Balzac, or Victor Hugo. For that matter, now they begin instilling doubt in the children’s heads in elementary school. Parents observe–we have thousands of witnesses to this–that their children return from school agitated, troubled, while school, in order to transmit knowledge, should above all give tranquility. Today, school destroys their faith in themselves. Just think, now they’re establishing philosophy seminars for children, "so they learn to seek," they say. But how can an individual look for something, if he isn’t sure about anything?

Laffrogue's words suggest how seriously cultural despondency has destroyed French society's capacities to instill loyalty and continuity in both its native and immigrant young. The parallels with American education are disturbing.

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