Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Ecological Catastrophe

Or something. A pal of Nicolas Hulot's resigns from Europe Écologie and issues a public letter of "warning," and suddenly the Greens are turning all green and looking as discombobulated as Socialists. Just as Daniel Cohn-Bendit was about to extend an invitation to ecologists of the center and right to join the nebulous ecological party, which, like a low pressure system hovering above the ocean, keeps threatening to blow inland and wreak major havoc in French politics but always seems to dissipate before achieving hurricane force.

New Web Site

La Vie des Idées has been publishing book reviews for 3 years now. The site, sponsored by the Collège de France, now has an English-language offshoot, Books and Ideas. Worth checking out.

When the Moon Hits Your Eye Like a Bigga PISA Pie

The PISA scores are out, and the news isn't good for either France or the USA. Of course the Chinese results reflect only the students of Shanghai, a select group, but other Asian countries, Finland, Switzerland, etc., all overachieve. Anticipate a mini-brouhaha concerning the failure of the schools. But before getting your knickers in a twist, you might do well to re-read Baudelot and Establet, L'Élitisme républicaine, which peers behind the league tables to give a more accurate picture of results like these. The short answer is that if you compare the cream of the French educational system with the students of Shanghai (the cream of China's crop), the results would look rather different. French (and American) schools fail at the bottom of the distribution, not the top. And then there's this paradox: Chinese college graduates can't find jobs, earn little more than less educated workers, and excel on tests but disappoint in the workplace.