by Jerome a Paris
Sat Mar 18th, 2006 at 07:34:43 AM EST
The following article by William Pfaff in the International Herald Tribune was flagged in this morning's Breakfast (it was actually published yesterday) and it is worth a full deconstruction:
William Pfaff: When a young Frenchman's fancy turns to revolution
The title itself is worth a comment: "revolution" suggests something violent and radical, while "fancy" suggests that the causes are frivolous. The agenda is thus clear: to discredit those that dare protest against the CPE.
Bumped up...especially relevant today ~ whataboutbob
Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin has put himself in a difficult situation at a moment when the French already suffer depression connected with unemployment, a sense of economic vulnerability and what seems like political futility.
A "sense of economic vulnerability"? Fostered precisely by the permanent repetition of the idea in pieces like this one.
This week, Villepin confronts street demonstrations of students flush with revolutionary enthusiasm, backed by union demonstrators with lifetime jobs at state corporations, and opposition politicians. This is supposed to culminate in vast gatherings across France on Saturday, all to protest a modest change in the country's complicated employment laws, meant to help unemployed young people lacking school or other job qualifications.
The contempt dripping from the paragraph is amazing.
"flush with revolutionary enthusiasm". Yeah, they're young and silly, but they'll dutifully turn into corporate drones.
"a modest change in the country's complicated laws" Yeah, it's no big deal, and it's far from enough to undo the big fuck up that labor laws are in France.
"meant to help unemployed young people lacking school or other job qualifications." Repeating the Koolaid. As quoted in the FT just below, even the purported beneficiaries of the contract unanimously view it with suspicion.
France is a certifications culture. Even simple jobs demand formal diplomas indicating a level of school achievement. If you don't have the right certificate, you are usually out of luck.
The obituaries of France's greatest men and women all but invariably begin by saying that the deceased was a graduate of the École Polytechnique or École Nationale d'Administration or some other of the "grandes écoles."
Only after that does the obituary add that the deceased was also president of the French Republic, a leading scientist, head of a great corporation or winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. It's the school that counts. I exaggerate only slightly.
That's fully true.
The youth unemployment problem is connected to this. The poor, unemployed immigrant youth of the ghetto suburbs of France's cities are often, as you might imagine, school dropouts. The problem has been worsened in recent years because of well-intentioned efforts blocking "selection" in schools so that everyone will follow a curriculum leading toward a baccalaureate. The result, naturally, is that even more drop out of baccalaureate courses they don't understand and don't want.
This is false and stupid on so many levels that I hardly know where to start.
- the problem of "selection" is not the one in mentions. There is a "lack of selection" problem, but it comes at the university level: everybody with a "Bac" can go to university, thus the universities have to take more students than they should, and have to "babysit" them until they drop out on their own to do something more appropriate. But efforts by universities to put in place requirements, tests, or more controversially, increase fees (with a corresponding increase in help for poorer students) mostly fail. About 60% of university students never complete the first 2 years. That's a huge waste due to non-selection, but it's after the baccalauréat
- the opposite problem happens before: kids with poor results, and with poor knowledge of the education system are pushed out of the normal schools and into aprrenticeships, "professional high schools" and the like, from where they will never be able to have access to higher education. The problem is that this selection (kicking them out, really) takes place too early, and the kids get branded with the bad repautation of these side tracks, in a self perpetuating viciosu circle. Of course, poor kids, where immigrants are disproportionately represented, are the mian victims of this.
One of the important responses of the Villepin government to last fall's disorder in the ghettos was to restore, re-emphasize and lower the age of entry to apprenticeships in the trades and crafts.
Yeah, in breach of the obligation for everybody to be schooled until they are 16.
The continuing demonstrations, and the break- in and occupation last weekend of part of the Sorbonne in emulation of Paris 1968, are all about a new job contract meant to encourage businesses to hire young people lacking the right credentials, and teach them on the job, with the prospect of a regular job contract to follow.
The Kool-aid again. "meant to encourage businesses to hire young people lacking the right credentials". What gall. No, it's meant to let them fire people at will. Business likes to pretend that it will encourage them to hire more, but that's only an expected (or hoped for) consequence - and in France the history of these schemes is that no jobs get created - stable jobs get replaced by unstable ones.
This is called "marginalizing" and undermining young people. I am a biased American, of course, but I never dreamed that the first job I found would carry a lifetime guarantee.
Talk about moving the goal posts...
A knowledgeable analyst of Le Figaro, Bruno Jeudy, says Villepin should have stuck with the success of his scheme for small businesses. If he insisted on going further, he should have called in the unions for talks in which he could have won some support. He never should have overridden parliamentary opposition. School holidays seemed to offer Villepin a chance to get the change through quickly, while opposition was scattered. Now it's back, fully mobilized, and Villepin's allies are edging away from him. Jeudy says he has shown the qualities that have damaged him before: impetuousness, and a taste for solitary decisions.
Now that paragraph actually makes sense. It's not from Pfaff himself...
He may well survive. Student opinion is divided, and many are angry about the excesses of a student fringe.
That sounds like wishful thinking on a grand scale... a "fringe" it is not. (and today a poll states that 68% of the French want the new contract to go)
If the demonstrations peak this week and then decline, and if the new employment measures actually push youth unemployment down in coming months, Villepin will have passed the test of the streets, which has broken the career of more than one prime minister.
Lots of "ifs"...