"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Friday, October 19, 2012

Francois Hollande Says Abolish Homework In The Name Of Equality

David Azerrad of the Heritage Foundation recently (10.18.12) wrote an article about the difference between the French and American conception of equality.  The French believe that once you are French, you leave your cultural baggage at the door. There is no such thing as African-French, Arab-French, or Asian-French.  There is no box to tick on the census form to indicate your race, ethnicity, or national origin.  On the surface this seems to be a good thing, for there are none of the divisive affirmative action programs common in the United States.  Poverty is a legitimate marker, and social programs have been devised by Socialist governments for decades to address the poor.

However ignoring race altogether ignores the cultural and religious dynamics of poverty.  It is no surprise that the predominantly African suburbs of Paris exploded in 2005.  These enclaves – and enclaves they were, isolated and far from the conservative and tony neighborhoods of the 7th and the 16th who for decades had preferred to pretend that they did not exist.  There was no doubt that racism and its corollary Islamic prejudice was alive and well in France regardless of the colorblind public policy.  French colonial rule justified by its mission civilisatrice – the mission to civilize Africans and progressively integrate them into the far more evolved world of French culture – was the foundation for a particular brand of French racism. 

French colonists and their post-Independence advisors had a relaxed, easy way with Africans compared to Americans whose particular racial history and more internally divisive and corrosive race relations kept them at a distance.  Yet these French could never shake the mission civilisatrice, the policy according to which certain Africans, given their adaptability to French language, culture, and historical imperatives, were made honorary French citizens.  

The fact that the Charlemagne saved Europe from the Muslim hordes threatening Christendom from the South and the East and because of its staunch defense and promotion of Christianity,  France has long considered itself to be la  fille aînée de l'Église Catholique – the eldest daughter of the Catholic Church.  Add to that many centuries of French supremacy in diplomacy, art, music, literature and culture, and the international influence of the French Revolution, and one can forgive them a bit of cultural if not racial arrogance.

In any event the ‘We Are All French’ policy is a case of idealistic principle trumping practical reality. No matter how many politicians stand in front of the Élysée or fulminate on the floor of the Assemblée Nationale, the African suburbs remain isolated, marginalized, poor, and black.

There have been some attempts to redress these socio-economic imbalances and to bring reality more in harmony with principle; but since the French government cannot single out any group for particular attention – such as African immigrants – it must devise programs for society as a whole.

While discussing his education reform plans at Paris’s Sorbonne University last week, Hollande explained that he wants to ban homework , because it gives kids who get help from their parents a leg up on those who come from families where the parents are either absent or can’t help.

Homework, in other words, is unfair because some have more opportunity than others to benefit from it.

Hollande’s proposal, however popular it may be with kids and liberal ideologues, perfectly illustrates how the left has been trying to redefine “equality of opportunity” to mean sameness of opportunity

‘Progressives’ in the United States have tried to do the same thing.  Since they, like the French believe that all people are equal – not just that they should have equal opportunity – they have tried to engineer inequality out of society.  Children in school practice ‘cooperative learning’, classes segmented by ability are abolished, and little attempt is made to encourage individual opportunity. 

Sameness of opportunity demands that the disadvantaged be given more opportunities (usually through government programs) and that the privileged or naturally gifted be denied certain opportunities (e.g., kids should not benefit from their parents’ help).

Is it really fair that the smart and hard-working [students] who get good grades have better opportunities to get into college than the below-average…[ones] ? Should we devise ways to deny them the use of their natural talents and aptitudes?

Hollande is attempting to dumb down French education in an attempt to justify his views of equality.  Since many students cannot achieve top performance, then it is better to lower the standards to those which they can attain.

His no-homework proposition shows the difference between French and American political theorists.  He would prefer to deny opportunity to those who can best take advantage of it and favor those whose likelihood of success is minimal.  This idea, however silly it may sound, is important to listen to, for we have a persistent anti-opportunity trend in our political society.

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