L’éducation vs. Education

1 Oct

When I was young and returned from school each day the first thing my parents would ask  me when I walked through the door was, “how was school today?” I remember always being annoyed by this question, I mean it was school, how do you think it was? Some days I would have stories for my mom while she was making dinner, but mostly they would be about which boy(s) I liked. I think my mom was just happy to hear what was going on in my life outside of the house. It was a way to check up on us kids without being too pushy. It would usually continue until we sat down for dinner and discussed real school subjects like math (which I hated) and English (which I excelled at).  It also continued through my early adult years when I came home from work and was still living with my parents for the first year out of college. “So, how was work?” my parents would say the minute the door opened. I would respond with a hushed “ok” under my breath as I made a beeline for my room. And yet, still today my parents ask me the same question, so mom and dad, after my first week in school last week, I can tell you it was super! Of course, we learned a lot of grammar, but this semester I’m also taking classes like civilisation, théâtre and chanson française (French music). Now that I understand most French and feel a tiny bit more at ease to actually speak up in class it’s a bit more interesting this time around.

In my civilisation class we learned the difference between l’éducation and l’enseignement. L’éducation is performed by the parents where they teach their children manners, etc…whereas l’enseignement is performed by the school teachers where they teach the regular school subjects. I thought it was interesting that the French have made a point in pointing out that there is a difference in what is taught at home and what is taught in the school and so puts the responsibility on parents to teach their children right from wrong, or more importantly here to teach their children to be sage (well-behaved).

In my quest to always analyze the cultural differences, this is one I tip my hat to the French for. All too often I believe American parents are waiting for the U.S. school system to do their job, which means we have classrooms filled with misbehaved kids and ultimately means a lower level of education with the teachers acting more like babysitters and less like educators.

Le System Scolarie in France is serious stuff and spits out children who can do math, have a chronological and comprehensive sense of history, know the teachings of Western civilisation’s key philosophers, have a decent understanding of how the immune system works and of course, they have a deep and extensive knowledge of French literature. The reason for this is that from the age of six, they are burdened with crazy amounts of homework and hardly any sport or art and no drama. If they want to practice that they can do it in their free time on Wednesday when there is no school here in France.

I can’t yet say if I think this rigorous system is a good one, but what I can say is that it doesn’t leave much room for imagination, for dreaming, or for creativity, all of which were my strengths. And, although we as Americans haven’t distinguished the difference between home and school education what we have done is brought up a country of children who can dream and sometimes even make those dreams reality.

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2 Responses to “L’éducation vs. Education”

  1. Paulette Fennewald October 1, 2012 at 1:39 pm #

    Well spoken Courtney! love, P

  2. Louise McGivern October 5, 2012 at 4:33 pm #

    I love this post. Its a topic that’s very close to my heart at the moment, my daughter just started ecole maternelle on Tuesday, here in Lyon. Her classroom teacher told me the other day that she was “sage”, so after reading this, I’m pretty happy that they think she is well behaved at this point. At the moment its not too much of a concern for me that in France the creative/imaginative/active side of our daughter’s personality isn’t being developed, as I’m sure age 3 all of these areas are focused on in maternelle. I think, however, I will start to worry when she gets to 6,7,8yrs etc…it’s so important for us to have a well rounded little girl. (My husband and I are very active, and though we aren’t very artistic/musical, we want these opportunities available if she wishes to explore them.) Interesting topic. Thanks for sharing!

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