[star]The American Mind[star]

April 03, 2006

"We Have the Youth We Deserve"

A new law in France would *gasp* let employers fire new hires under 26 for any reason during their first two years of employment. The fact French companies can't do that already explains France's lousy employment situation. For centuries it's been in the French cultural DNA to protest so for weeks that's what students have done. They've gone so far as to cause $1.2 million in damage to the Sorbonne University and have kept it closed for weeks. That school's president Jean-Robert Pitte is fed up with the protesters and their "illusions." His remarks offer the most impressive bit of sanity I've heard from any French man in some time:

"I'm very angry about the demagogy, the ignorance and the stupidity of the young and of the French," said Dr Pitte, 56, a geography professor who has taught at Oxford and Cambridge and holds the Légion d'honneur.

"Today's youth don't have dreams, they have illusions. To dream is to want to accomplish something difficult that is a challenge. Instead youngsters believe they have a right to everything and if things don't go the way they want it's someone else's fault."


Dr Pitte, whose comments were published in the respected weekly news magazine Le Point, blamed "irresponsible" public debate for stoking the violence.

"They say: Oh, these poor students! Of course they have a right to an open-ended work contract! It's absurd," he told Le Point. "Who is going to tell these youngsters the truth? Get real." He added that tens of thousands of students were taking degrees in subjects with no relevance to the employment market but were then demanding jobs linked to their studies.

"It's true that someone in England who leaves Oxford with a degree in Chinese can work in marketing, but they learn their job as they go along and must prove themselves.

"I know people will say I'm a horrible reactionary but I'm very angry about the ignorance and the stupidity not just of youngsters but of the French because we have the youth we deserve."

"Head of Sorbonne Attacks 'Ignorant' Student Protesters"

UPDATE: McQ at QandO comments:

While Pitte's words are true and a welcome bit of fresh air, my guess is the result will be Pitte doing the equivalent of the "Larry Summers Shuffle" as he's asked to find another position in the near future. I don't think France is quite yet in the postition to want to deal with the truth.

"France: Speaking Truth to Ignorance"

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 12:54 AM | Comments (2)