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Thanks, brunoken.  I've wanted to know the answers to some of these questions, myself.

I don't live in France, nor do I have access to much news from France, beyond the obvious cases of student protests and immigrant car-burning, but I keep hearing that the French people lack anything resembling optimism and confidence about their country and status in the world.  I've read articles in the past that stated the French people lack self-esteem.  And yet, despite that (if it is true), I never see any politician proposing serious reforms.

Perhaps the French government could stop worrying about a Frenchman speaking English -- yes, Jacques, even if his remark about English being "the language of business" was insulting to you; frankly, I wouldn't care, even if I were French-speaking -- and start focusing on policies to make life better for French citizens.  If it sees a problem, work on measures to solve the problem.  It's amazing to me -- and it's not at all a France-only issue -- to see how politicians can sit around like a bunch of morons, talking all God-damned day about "problems" and "reforms" and "(blah...blah...blah...)," yet never get anything done.

Now for a bit of ranting about the press:

Why is France always the focus?  Why not Germany?  The unemployment rate is almost two percentage points higher in Germany than in France, but the business press keeps talking about a massive German recovery.

I'm so tired of picking up the paper every morning and finding another story about problems in France -- whether it's the "petit bourgeois" students (quote from an official in the NYT), or the crazy immigrants, or the union strikes that screw with public services, or whatever.  Enough.  I want to read news from France, but is this really the best news coverage we can produce -- the same stories, over and over again?  Write about wine and cheese, for Christ's sake, or about how American women all want to sleep with French men because of their sexy accents and great suits.  Something cheerful!

God Almighty, you'd think the country was on the verge of collapse, reading what the English-speaking press has to say.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Fri Mar 31st, 2006 at 11:53:14 AM EST
This, in particular...
The worry is that the more that France struggles to define a role for itself in the world, the more it will in turn be tempted to fasten on its social model as its raison d'être, and so cling to a discredited creed.
WTF? France has been around the top of European politics continually since Charlemagne, and the Economist wants to make us believe that France's problem is that it's desperately looking for a role in the world?

F* off!

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Mar 31st, 2006 at 11:57:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
a discredited creed

Those words, in themselves, are revealing. They situate the question in the field of belief and ideology. Who has decided that the "creed" is "discredited" (meaning, no one believes in it any more)?

And what is the creed that the writer is implying everyone believes in now? What makes them believe in the new creed? The non-stop repetition of the mantra by high priests like the Economist?

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Mar 31st, 2006 at 02:13:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Germany is so last year. Move with the times.

Seriously. Last year they were pulling the same sort of shit with Germany, using the official 13.5% unemployment rate and comparing it to the US rate and wittering on about inflexible labour markets.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Mar 31st, 2006 at 12:03:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Of course, now Merkel is in power and Merkel sounds sort of like 'Merika so everything is great.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Mar 31st, 2006 at 12:04:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I was thinking the same thing.  The business press was clearly pushing for Merkel, and -- shockingly -- Germany, after her election, became everybody's favorite country of the Continent, again.  I suppose it's an improvement on the "Old Europe" line (you know, baby steps).

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Fri Mar 31st, 2006 at 12:11:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't know if it's an improvement, but it's very noticeable.

The English-language media and the business/economy pundits have simply stopped bashing Germany. The "new" meme is France, proudly but foolishly attempting to oppose the forward march of the inevitable.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Mar 31st, 2006 at 02:04:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I've read articles in the past that stated the French people lack self-esteem.  And yet, despite that (if it is true), I never see any politician proposing serious reforms.
Drew, the main difference between (mainland) European education and (US) American education is that the European educational system (and ethos) seems designed to beat you down until you become sheepish, while in the US every little "achievement" is celebrated. I've been on the wrong end of both systems: having my head chopped off for sticking out from the crowd in Spain, and having to praise mediocrity (and failing) as a teaching assistant in California.

You should read Jerome's thread on the Grandes Ecoles [especially the discussion of the admissions and prep-school process in the comments] with this in mind.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Mar 31st, 2006 at 12:10:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks for the tip on Jerome's article (searching for it now).  You're certainly right about the American system's obsession with celebrating mediocrity.

Jen (my fiancee) had to do it when she taught as a volunteer last year, but that situation was a bit different: These were kids who weren't taken seriously by the teachers.  They had no self-esteem, whatsoever, and she had to spend months building them back up with assignments to give them confidence.  Over half the kids couldn't read when she began working with them.  One teacher looked at her and said, "See that group of students in the corner?  I guarantee you they'll all drop out."  She was stunned by that comment and wanted to slap the taste out of the teacher's mouth for taking that attitude.

I assume you've seen the stories on American teachers no longer being allowed to use red-ink pens in some districts when grading papers, because red ink "sends the wrong message" and "makes the students feel bad."  What a crock.  If a parent said that to one of my econ. professors, that parent would've been thrown out of the professor's office to the sound of laughter from the entire faculty.  Perhaps it's different in California.  People are weird out there.  I've yet to meet a native Californian without getting the feeling that aliens must exist.  Maybe that's why there are so many Scientologists in Hollywood.

Why parents are so obsessed with treating their children like four-year-olds until they finally leave high school is beyond me.  I'm all for the idea of nurturing kids, and for praising them when they actually achieve something.  But I also believe kids need to be told the truth when they've screwed up, and that there needs to be a sense of responsibility for one's future implanted early on.  My parents didn't reward my for Cs in school.  (I had friends whose parents did, though.)  They grounded me for weeks at a time.  And they told me, "Hey, do you want to dig ditches or flip burgers for a living?  Keep screwing off in school.  Nobody's going to do the work for you."

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Fri Mar 31st, 2006 at 12:30:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
My parents didn't reward me for A+'s in school, which was kind of a drag when others were rewarded for not failing.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Mar 31st, 2006 at 12:33:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, have a four for your A+'s.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Fri Mar 31st, 2006 at 12:42:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Drew, your Econ professor has tenure. Assistant professors and graduate students live in terror of student evaluations.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Mar 31st, 2006 at 12:34:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No, no, the grad students were always the hardliners at FSU.  The tenured professors, who had "seen it all," were the easy-going ones.  But we were a fairly mature group, and we gave high marks to professors and assistants/grads based on how well they actually taught the material -- not on whether we liked them as people.  But you're right about the fear of evaluations.  Schools shouldn't place so much emphasis on those.  My classmates in political science were mainly spoiled brats who chose it as their major only because they couldn't decide on anything else, and, if I had taught those classes as a grad student, I, too, would've lived in fear of evaluations.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Fri Mar 31st, 2006 at 12:41:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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