Monday, October 31, 2011

Mille e tre

I saw the Met's Don Giovanni this weekend, so I have fresh in my mind the dangers of specifying performance with undue mathematical precision. François Hollande has promised to add 60,000 teachers to the payroll of l'Éducation nationale if elected, and the UMP is not letting him forget it. My informal soundings among French voters (N=2) suggest that skepticism about this promise abounds. But will it matter?

Frankly, I'm not sure that anyone believes Hollande's promise, but I am fairly confident that a) most voters believe that making exaggerated promises is SOP for politicians and b) for Sarkozy, who made a few unkept promises of his own in 2007, to claim that his opponent won't keep his promises will not necessarily persuade voters that he is the better choice if promise-keeping potential is the voter's deciding criterion. Nevertheless, Hollande will be hurt by the obvious contradiction between his desire to present himself as a rigorous manager of national finances and his profligate approach to educational improvement (he defends his promise in the all too obvious way, calling it an "investment in France's future").

Left out of this dialog of the deaf is any consideration of whether adding 60,000 teachers is the proper remedy for France's educational woes. One might propose other, potentially more cost-effective measures, such as adding more teacher's aides and restoring funds for classroom apprenticeship training. But these won't bring as much joy to teachers unions, on which Hollande counts as one of his staunchest bases of support. As rash promises go, this was not a particularly smart one to make, but voters will quickly tire of it, and Sarkozy will recognize the danger of an "Is that all you've got?" reaction, so I expect we will hear less of it after a while, at least until the final debates, when it will again be raised as a last-minute reminder that the Socialists are going to debauch the currency--assuming France still has a currency by next April.


Anonymous said...

Reading your opening "Mille e tre" I said to myself that you were doing an amusing lighthearted take on DSK or should we say DXK. While "Mille e tre" may not be an exact mathemtically rendering, it does go to the heart of his attitude towards "le sexe faible", even further to be burnished by new information sure to leak out about the Lille call girl connection. One wonders which lackey in DSK's entourage would have had the courage and the ironic wit of a Leperello to sing such a song to Anne Sinclair!

Anonymous said...

regarding the 60,000 position promise: Even teachers don't really believe it. One issue is that it would mean doubling the number of openings and they haven't got enough candidates as is. You can't blame college students, really: they've got to get a master's degree, won't get any professional training, will be sent to teach in the hardest schools hundreds of miles away from their friends and family, and will be paid about ¤15,000 a year.
The rational way to do it, then, would be to restore teacher training (seems like a given) and fund special ed teachers/ teacher's aides to work alongside current teachers, as you say. Provide better working conditions, change the way new teachers are allocated their position, reform middle schools. To be fair, thoug: Seems the 60,000 promise actually dealt with ALL people who work in schools: teacher aides, nurses, etc. This would actually make more sense.
As for the promise: parents are now more worried about schools than about unemployment. The promise may thus be made to them rather than to teachers (as mentioned, I have yet to meet one who believes in it. They immediately bring up the lack of candidates).

Anonymous said...

In 2007, Sarkozy campaigned for the purchasing power, a republic beyond reproach, a " Marshall plan" for the suburbs, the family allowance as soon as the first child is born, economic growth, employement, the reducing of the public spending and budget deficits, and so on.
I think they(UMP,PS mostly)always promise when they want to be elected, but there always is a crisis or anything else to legitimate their failure. I think it's the same in US...
People are fed up with the powerless politicians. They all are the manservants of the bankers and the stock market.