The New York Times came out with this story on February 11, 2013 which illustrates the unintended psychological effects a socialist government can have on the people inhabiting said country and how it can ravage an education system.
Unlike in the United States, France has historically had a day in the weekday schedule off, which for the students would be Wednesdays. The school hours in France have been described as being overly long and even blamed as the reason that women have not been able to seek employment in the workforce. Immediately, I start to think about feminism and all the articles that bloggers like Aaron Clarey and his reactionary Canadian friend Davis M.J. Aurini have written in the past about the destructive powers of radical feminism. Save Capitalism also writes criticisms about this movement on his website and I highly suspect that it's one of the factors at play in this story.
Here is what the President of France would have in mind for such "education reform."
With all that in mind, the government of President François Hollande recently issued a decree introducing a half day of school on Wednesdays for children 3 to 11 starting in September, while reducing the school day by 45 minutes the rest of the week. In a country with a broad consensus in favor of shortening a school day that typically runs from 8:30 a.m. to at least 4 p.m., and sometimes longer, Mr. Hollande’s government still did not expect the plan to be controversial. It has not worked out that way.
As a result, the teachers unions, the parent teacher associations, and the local city governments have reacted with absolute outrage. From the description given in the article, one can tell that these groups have an extensive oligopoly over the French education industry and that there are many political motives in reacting in such a manner. France has had these free universal public schools since 1982 and the main reason that Wednesdays were mainly set aside was in honor of the Roman Catholic Church and other religious practices.
Nowadays, France is a much more secular country and usually the children are now spending their Wednesdays studying music or other leisurely activities, while the poorer families place their children in these subsidized "learning centers" as the article describes them. Here is the negative effect that these measures have had on the country and their dropout rates.
Despite their four-day week and nearly four months of vacation, French children spend more hours in class than most of their European counterparts: 847 hours a year for third graders, for example, compared with 750 hours on average for children elsewhere in the European Union. (In the United States, the average for students of all ages is around 950 hours.). Yet, a 2009 assessment of high school students in 65 countries by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development ranked France 21st in reading, 22nd in math and 27th in science. Dropout rates are on the rise, and nearly 40 percent of French 15-year-olds have repeated at least one grade — three times the O.E.C.D. average. “This is the only country I know where the adults work 35 hours a week, but they expect their kids to work more,” said Peter Gumbel, a British journalist and a professor at the Institut d’Études Politiques in Paris, also known as Sciences Po, who wrote a withering critique of France’s education system in 2010. “French kids are spending considerably more time sitting at their school desks than the average for outcomes which are generally worse.”
The parents are working even less than their own children! This doesn't sound like a country that I would want to live in if I wanted to raise productive offspring, but as Aaron Clarey would say, this is a feature, not a bug of socialism. I don't believe that America is at this point and seeing articles like this helps to place things into perspective, but this should serve as a stern warning to politicians who are thinking about radical education reform. Don't make the same mistakes that France is currently making right now!
The article continues to get worse with the description of the education problem that France is having. It is fairly obvious that the French are highly interfering with potential market forces that may help education become more efficient and beneficial to students for the sake of political power and gain. Even the curriculum is being attacked by these backwards "education experts" who claim that its focused way too much on "rote learning" and not enough about creativity or critical thinking. More time is spent on working on math and reading skills than in other countries in the O.E.C.D. Perhaps the quality of the teachers themselves is what is contributing to this problem and the lack of incentive to hire the cream of the crop.
Hollande's approval ratings are currently as low as 44 percent as a result of all these problems that have arisen during his term and yet he wants to hire 60,000 new teachers on a period of five years, while the country is facing a severe budget dilemma. More details to this plan are offered on the next page, where the hours that students are educated would be reduced to 45 minutes every other weekday. The local municipalities have a decentralized job of what to do with activities such as recess.
Meanwhile, there are going to be more protests, strikes, and other types of nationwide action from the teachers unions and even the mayors of small towns are joining in the opposition. It is quite a shame of how devolved French education has become. This was the same place that many of its great political and economic thinkers like Jean Baptiste-Say, Frederic Bastiat, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Alexis de Tocqueville and many others were born and spent at least part of their time living in. France was also one of the breeding grounds of the Age of Enlightenment. It seems like they could use a Second Age of Enlightenment to sort out the types of incompetence that I have described in this post.