Thursday, May 7, 2009

Pécresse's Rhetoric

Valérie Pécresse turned up the volume and the heat in the university strike yesterday. The minister's wish to be done with the strike is understandable, but her rhetoric is not. She accused strikers of holding the vast majority of students "hostage" and of neglecting parents who "bled themselves from four veins" to send their children to college. Who would have thought that university reform would lead to such extremity of language, while retirement reform proceeded at a much lower decibel level?

Walking past the Sorbonne yesterday, I saw a handful of strikers gathered around a leader with a megaphone. Unfortunately, he hadn't switched the megaphone on, so I couldn't hear what he was saying, despite being only a few feet away. Pécresse, on the other hand, seemed inflamed with rage--though perhaps she was only mugging for the TV cameras in the chamber. Time, perhaps, for Sarko to step in and calm things down--though of course it was he who poured oil on the university fires several months ago with his insulting speech. But he has shown a knack for tactical retreat in the past, and this might be a good time to try another flanking maneuver.


Nico said...

Theater. The same over and over again. Different actors.

Leo said...

I have to disagree with you here. Indeed, the Profs' and researchers' anger is justified by Sarko's despicable speach, but here it's a different kettle of fish: not strike, not demonstration, but a really tiny minority that is, by force, preventing other students from attending school.
Call it whichever way you want: hostage taking, infringement on basic rights, is just not acceptable.

David said...

With respect I'll suggest that Leo get a clue. The insult of Sarkozy's speech (note spelling, please) is but an additional salvo on top of the highly disrespectful nature of the reforms that are at the core of the strike. If you were a researcher, Leo - and I'm assuming you're not by your comment - I think you'd find it insulting to be told that your work held little value for the nation and that you should content yourself with teaching "useful" things - presumably not the value of literature criticism or art history or anything to which one cannot readily assign a monetary value. The French university system has its problems, yes, but it's always been one of the world's bastions of intellectual endeavor for which we intellectuals from the New World have always been somewhat jealous, whether all of us would recognize it or not. Yes, it looks like the students' university year has not been productive; students will survive - but I fear my colleagues' careers may not.


Boz said...

In the couple of universities I have had personal experience with here, it is indeed a small core band of students that are the instigators of the majority of the most disruptive behavior. Yes, the larger student body has tolerated it for a time, but there is clear difference between those two groups.

Art, I see you're sitting on a panel this weekend with Romain Huret - he happens to teach one of my current courses, and I've got to say he's by far one of the most reasonable minded profs around.

Anonymous said...

Le monde has an article in today's, 8 mai, edition on the strike and total "blocage" at the university Stendhal in Grenoble. Maybe you're in Grenoble long enough to get a feel for what's going on?

Chris P.

Unknown said...

No, I haven't really got a feeling for what's going on. There was plenty of anger toward the government evident in some sessions, but I am not at all sure that the strike has broad support. I think Leo is right that a majority would prefer to resolve the issues in another way, and there is fear that a line may soon be crossed that will make retreat or compromise impossible. But I don't claim any particular insight.

Boz, I enjoyed my brief encounter with your professor.