Tuesday, August 28, 2007

A Tale of Two Pretties

La rentrée scolaire is upon us, and with this momentous annual event are the concomitant articles in the French press about the price tag of back-to-school shopping and the state of affairs of l'Education nationale. I've been here only a year and a half, so my knowledge of the politics and history of the French education system is tenuous at best, though gaining some ground. I know I have often privately lamented the apparent dumbing down of the American public, and have always -- from anecdotal evidence at least -- believed that French citizens on the whole emerge from their schooling far more knowledgeable, articulate, and intellectually curious than the majority of their American counterparts. And that includes me.

So, just for fun, I couldn't resist comparing two stories. (Sure, sure, all comparisons are odious, but I just blog what I observe: blogger's license?) Gives pause for thought.

1. This summer a fellow houseguest on Ile de Ré was a sweet and engaging 5 year-old petite parisienne. At a tender age where she still brandishes a doudou and draws stick figures with crayons, she is able to expound upon her tastes in classical music ("C'est complètement débile," she said of Wagner), and the names of the French presidential candidates, whose campaign posters she had seen outside her école maternelle last spring. So just to test, I asked her, "Peux-tu me dire -- qui est Nicolas Sarkozy?" She looked at me incredulously, and answered, "Mais, c'est le président de la République!" As if I were complètement débile for asking such an inane question.

2. Yesterday I received a link to this mind-boggling video clip at the Presurfer (thanks to Pam at FrogBlog). Even giving this American teen beauty queen the benefit of the doubt, it represents a marked contrast from my experience with French-educated adolescents. Perhaps this Goldilocks was nervous, perhaps the question was too hard? Perhaps it is just the nature of the pool of beauty pageant contestants?

Oy. Complètement débile!

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