Friday, January 22, 2010


Today, for two hours in my language course, we discussed philosophy and politics. First, one of the students had to give her 10 minute oral presentation on two newspaper articles and she talked about quotas and reverse discrimination when considering students for the elite grandes écoles, like l'Ecole Normale Supérieure. Apparently, in France, they don't have affirmative action here, and some groups want to impose it. You'd think in such a liberal country, they would have done it before the US. Anyway, one of the articles that she found discussed how there was no diversity in these schools and that the students there are all from prestigious families and went to prestigious preparatory schools. When she was done with her presentation, we had a debate about it, but everyone more or less agreed that accepting students using quotas purely for diversity's sake is a bad idea. Two of the students were especially vehement about it - one is Puerto Rican and the other is Indian. They both said that they hated thinking that they might have gotten into their schools (I believe Georgetown and Yale, respectively) because of their skin color rather than their intelligence. Anyway, it was an interesting conversation, that ended with us deciding that the real problem was that the high schools needed reforming so that every student would be equally prepared for the concours (how students are admitted to these schools). But, we agreed that it was a very Utopian view.

From there, we switched to watching a famous philosopher talk about "desire" and what it meant to "be to the left" (on the political spectrum). He made us write a whole page on it in about 15 minutes. When we were out of the class, we were comparing homework and class stories with the students in the other group, who actually just do grammar and vocabulary in their language courses, and that was when we realized that "Groupe 3" is actually the most advanced group. But, since this professor is a little scary, we're all a little annoyed that there's such a difference in the levels.

In our other courses, we talked about politeness and what courses we can take. About politeness, the class was fun, but a lot of the rules were self explanatory and basically the same in the US. For example, I think everyone knows it's impolite to spit in the street. But, the interesting parts were about how Europeans kiss each other on both cheeks, and the French in Paris do it twice. If someone withdraws too early, they have to start again. They're also apparently very chivalrous here - the men open doors, pull out chairs, and serve food for the women. As for courses, I know I want to take the Art History course that CUPA offers because I know absolutely nothing about art history, and in this course, they'll take me to the Louvre and other Parisian museums to explain the art. Then, I want to take a Literature and a Philosophy course for credit. Right now, I'm thinking I'll take a L1 philosophy class at La Sorbonne (since French students are probably much more advanced in philosophy than I am - they teach it in their high schools) and a literature class at l'ENS. Then, they found a writing workshop based on l'OuLiPo constraints for me! It should be fantastic - and I'll audit it since writing with constraints in French would probably be incredibly difficult for me. For example, it's hard to go without using the letter "e" in English for one sentence, let alone a whole novel, but les oulipiens do stuff like that and all in French.

After class, I had a smoothie with some other CUPA students, met up with Alexandra and had a crepe, and then, on my way home, I saw my host mom who was going to the Gare de Lyon to pick up her sister who was coming to visit from Nice. So, I went with her, which is why this entry is so late. But, it's okay - I can sleep late tomorrow. Mme De la Taille's sister is a middle school English teacher, sort of like a French Mme Kautz! She thought I spoke French really well. I haven't met anyone yet who was rude to me about my French, so I suppose that stereotype of French people hating Americans isn't always true. Everyone's been very complimentary about my French and I keep learning new words and expressions, especially slang. But, it's late here, so I'm going to go to bed now. Tomorrow, I have to read newspapers and come up with what I'm going to say for my 10 minute presentation.

1 comment:

  1. I am amazed that you all were able to sit around and have such a high level discussion in French....