Wednesday, February 20, 2008

That Other Country That Had a Revolution

We thank gentle and erudite reader Scott for pointing us to Gray Lady piece chronicling what has proved to be a controversial proposal from the President of France: that all French schoolchildren should learn the story of a French child who died in the Holocaust.

Sarkozy's most provocative statement about this proposal is undoubtedly this, as reported by the Times:

Adding to the national fracas over the announcement, Mr. Sarkozy wrapped his plan in the cloak of religion, placing blame for the wars and violence of the last century on an “absence of God” and calling the Nazi belief in a hierarchy of races “radically incompatible with Judeo-Christian monotheism.”

Fair enough, we say, and true enough. For the French, however, you'd think that the very foundations of the Third Republic had been shattered. The article is fun reading mostly to see how French intellectuals are decrying the proposal. Apparently, a pupil who learns about a child who died at the hand of the Nazis will be permanently traumatized, unable to function in the placid society that is today's enlightened France.

We are reminded again of the two paths taken in the Enlightenment's two great political revolutions. In France the path was anti-clericalism and anti-religious secularism, shot through with radical idealism about the capacity of human reason. In America the path was a sober assessment of human limitations as demonstrated in history and taught in Protestant Christianity, yielding protection of religion from the state as well as the opposite.

We remain convinced that on balance, the path taken by our Republic is better than theirs.


Christian said...

I should probably be ashamed to say this, though I am not.

If there is any country/people group that makes me want to be ethnocentric, it's the French.

I suppose it's a good thing I'm going to a Leadership conference on developing a Biblical worldview.

Pat Rock said...

Christian, can you elaborate on why? France is a G7 economy (about the 6th largest in the world) with what is considered by the World Health Organization to be the best health system in the world. I can't imagine that its such a terrible place.

@SWNID, I wonder if the un-mentioned problem with teaching about the holocaust in France is that students might learn about the collusions between France and the Nazis and their shared anti-semitism.

Bryan D said...


I'm not sure that the WHO is a proper judge for the quality of health care worldwide. I know that Britain is ranked far above the U.S. and Canada and Italy far above it. As for those two Euro health systems I can say quite confidently that it's not what it's cracked up to be. Then again, people like that Michael Moore think that Cuba's health care system is better than America's . . . though I doubt he'll be making the trip South when he's inevitably stricken with heart disease.

I've never experienced the French system specifically, but if the other WHO rankings are indicative, that description is just about as useful as a kerosene heater in hell.

Christian said...

Pat, You clearly read my comments through some kind of strange lens. I never said anything about France being a terrible place. I didn't say anything about the place. I made a qualified statement ("if") about a people group. Granted, I should have said "If there were any," but maybe I have more issues with the people of France than I thought.

Regardless, my comments were personal opinion based upon a perception of another people that I know of only through media. We do it all the time. Thus reinforcing (or developing) our ethnocentric views. Hence my comment.

As to why that would be the case, the french culture in general appears to me to lack certain values that I prize.