Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Ageism

Now that I'm getting to be a certain age, a certain ageism that would once have passed me by looms increasingly large. Recently I've heard from two American colleagues that after being offered visiting professorships in France, they were obliged to turn down the offers when it emerged that they could not be paid. Apparently French university regulations prohibit paying anyone over the age of 65 to teach (barring a special dérogation). Now, doesn't this strike you as absurd? Not only are the French depriving themselves of the enlightenment to be had from mature scholars with a lifetime of thinking and research behind them. They are also discouraging productive labor by "seniors" at a time when the government is trying to persuade people that they need to prolong their working lives, that productivity does not end at 55 or 60, and that many people can usefully contribute to society well into later life. Why does this foolish regulation survive? Even if one argues that older professors should retire to make room for younger ones, that logic does not apply to foreign visitors, who are only temporary and do not take up any permanent post. Both of the cases I know about did not even involve filling in for absent professors. These were people who were to lecture for a few weeks during the summer so as to make their special expertise available to French students. It makes no sense to prohibit such potentially fruitful exchanges. I hope someone at the Ministry of Education will read this post and do something about it.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

doesn't this restriction have to do with efforts (perhaps artifacts of another time), across economic sectors, to artificially limit the size of the workforce?

Durando said...

Arthur,

Tisk tisk. You know as well as I do that "logic" in this dear country is understood to be universal. There is no such thing as "French logic." Somewhere behind every rule is the ghost of a notion that how we do things in Paris is how we do things in Nantes is how we should do things in Pago-Pago. I would add that, even if such a beast were to exist, it would fittingly bite foreigners all the harder....