Wednesday, December 17, 2008

FAF Report

Andrew Hansen of the French-American Foundation (a most worthy organization from whose largesse I have benefited on several occasions through the FAF Translation Prize) was kind enough to write in response to an earlier post about French affirmative action. The Foundation recently prepared a report on "Promoting Equality of Opportunity in Selective Higher Education." The report can be found here. I haven't had a chance to read it yet, but I gather it takes up the "Texas plan" that I mentioned in the previous post and that Patrick Weil favors. Many thanks to Andrew for the reference.

Thirty Percent Boursiers

The president gave a major speech on affirmative action à la française today. He wants to see 30% of the preparatory classes for the Grandes Ecoles filled with scholarship students. He has named Yazid Sabeg diversity czar. Rhetorically, his most interesting move was the invocation of the Third Republic, arguably the Golden Age of le boursier, as a foil to the notion that "republicanism" is equivalent to "egalitarianism." When the Republic was at its best in fulfilling the dreams of ordinary Frenchmen, Sarkozy argued, it did not treat everyone equally but sought out the best and the brightest for special privilege. Well, yes, it did, but not on the basis of race, residential location, or attendance of a particular lycée. This is Patrick Weil's fundamental reason for favoring the "Texas plan," under which the top ten percent of students in all high schools are entitled to admission to the state university. Although Sarko has called for 30 percent of students in the classes prépa to be scholarship students (the figure already stands at 23%), he didn't say how many of these the Grandes Ecoles ought to admit; thus a fundamental ambiguity hovers over the plan.

Meanwhile, a commission headed by Simone Veil recommended against a constitutional amendment to enshrine diversity as a fundamental goal of the regime. Sarko also announced an experiment in which 100 firms would switch to the use of anonymous CV's in their hiring. This in response to the following study mentioned by Veil:

En 2004, Jean-François Amadieu, qui dirige l'Observatoire des discriminations, a envoyé plus de 1800 curriculum vitae concernant des postes de commerciaux pour lesquels il a obtenu 258 réponses. A CV identique, l'homme blanc portant un nom français et résidant à Paris était convoqué à 75 entretiens d'embauche, le même résidant au Val-Fourré, à Mantes-la-Jolie, n'en obtenait que 45 et pour celui qui portait un nom à consonance marocaine, le nombre d'entretiens tombait à 14… Dans l'entreprise, les discriminations se poursuivent : à diplôme de l'enseignement supérieur égal, seuls 11% des jeunes d'origine algérienne âgés de 25 à 33 ans sont cadres alors que 46% des jeunes d'origine française le sont.

Satisfaction Guaranteed

Cohn-Bendit, Jadot, and Besset have a good point about Sarko's EU leadership stint: so desperate was he to obtain an agreement on climate protection under his presidency that he made more concessions than necessary to Merkel, Berlusconi, and Tusk, who were out to defend their industries tooth and nail. Pragmatism and voluntarism are all well and good, but when coupled with impatience, ridiculously brief tenure, and a style of governance that privileges effets d'annonce over actual achievements, what you get is bad compromises and untenable bargains.

Apparently Le Monde's editorial page is more easily impressed, as are many European observers. There's no accounting for taste.

Why Drezner Is Worried

A smart post from Dan Drezner listing reasons to worry about the inadequacy of the current response to global crisis. Key points as far as Europe is concerned:

1. "The Europeans and Asians, meanwhile, are unbelievably complacent."
2. "A restriction of global trade is not going to happen through traditional means, like high tariffs. It’s going to happen through domestic content rules on any fiscal programmes and on currency manipulation."

Expulsive Efficiency

Test Society calls attention to one of the less-touted Sarkozyan reforms: quantitative evaluation of bureaucratic performance--in this instance, the evaluation of the efficiency of the immigration police in expelling foreigners from French soil.