Speaking of philosophy exams, yesterday afternoon I went to see a friend who is 83. She told me that when she was in high school, her philosophy teacher was terribly stupid and incompetent. This was in a girls boarding school in Carcassonne in the late 1940s.
What she and her fellow classmates remembered years later was the teacher telling them about a field of philosophy called behaviourism, founded by a person called Behaviour. ;D
When they all went to Montpellier for the bac, which included a written exam + an oral for every subject, the examiners saw that they came from that school in Carcassonne and just asked, "So what did she come up with this year?"
I saw on the news that there is a hotline for the correctors to call when they are really perplexed. Unfortunately, they receive the essays to grade anonymously and from a variety of schools, so they can't be as indulgent as I'm sure they would be if they knew that the students had suffered under certain infamous teachers.
When I think back about all of my years in school, I don't quite get a flash of anger when I think about some of the worst teachers I had, but I may emit a silent sigh of despair when I think of the time wasted, the lessons not properly taught, the boredom and just how mean-spirited some of these people were on top of being incompetent.
i think most of my teachers were okay - but still, there are quite a few topics that i "discovered" later on, and realized i must have studied them in school but completely forgot about them again right away, because apparently the teacher didn't manage to bring across that they are interesting.
then again, it's not easy to bring across something is interesting, unless the student is already interested. which is why elementary school should be seen as the most important school - it is the time during which most kids lose interest, which they won't regain easily later on...
My 11th grade United States History teacher was one of the worst. He taught directly from the textbook as we 17 year old read along. I hated history because of him, but once I got into college I made it a point to take classes with the most revered professors who brought history to life with their fascinating stories and details of civilizations.
In the United States there is an attitude that "anyone can teach," but to a really good teacher one must be a talented individual with knowledge and love of their subject, as well as a love for teaching.
Many of the French are in total admiration of how imagination is nurtured and encouraged in American schools while it is generally stifled in French schools because ideas are often set in stone with Cartesian logic. Probably both systems could learn from each other.
One lesson that sticks in my mind came in biology. We had a young lady teaching this rebellious class of 15 year old boys. The subject "Reproduction of the Rabbit" complete with diagrams ;D ;D. That was the closest thing to sex education we got in those days (1947-8)
Man is not lost, only temporarily uncertain of his position
So, today was the French baccalauréat exam again, which about 75% of French high school students take (and about 80% of the students taking it are successful. This allows you to enroll in the university of your choice (almost) free of charge.
Today's essay questions for the "Bac S" (scientific section) from which to choose:
1. Does a work of art always mean something? 2. Are politics exempt from always being truthful? 3. Explain a text by Ciceron about the criteria for valid prediction.
For the "Bac ES" (economic section) here are the topics:
1. Is one's personal social determinism the direct result of societal factors at a given time? 2. What should one understand when seeing a work of art? 3. Explain a text by Spinoza about the essence of democracy.
The literary nerds are in "Bac L" (literary section) -- here are their subjects:
1. What is a moral duty for a living person? 2. What is the value of one's personal history in terms of the grand scheme of things? 3. Explain a text by de Toqueville about the inevitability of dogmatic ideas being essential to social cohesion.
Here are a few of today's philosophy subjects, which ruined the morning of most senior high school students in France between 9am and noon.
-- Do we always know what we desire? -- Does working less improve the quality of life? -- Must moral convictions be based on experience? -- Is desire unlimited by nature? -- Must you be able to prove what you know? -- Can we always justify our beliefs? -- To be right, is it sufficient to obey the law?
(Some of the questions are quite similar but were given to different groups of students.)
Variations in different countries are always interesting. For example, here are the questions asked in the French schools of North America:
-- Can an artist be indifferent to beauty? -- Is is possible not to admit the truth? -- Is work simply the application of techniques? -- Can a scientific truth be approximate?
Meanwhile in India...
-- Is religion a manifestation of one's culture? -- Does one choose to be an artist?
In Québec, Cégep students have to take three mandatory philosophy classes. Cégep is between secondary school and university (for those who attend it) and incorporates elements of the lycée, of what is called community or junior colleges in English-speaking North America and of the old collèges classiques sytem (church-based institutions frequented only by the élite, and for decades only by boys/young men). Cégep stands for colleges for General and Professional (= vocational) education, and students in the pre-university and the trades streams all take these courses. They also have to take classes in French and in English (first and second language) as well as phys ed.
This is nowhere near the emphasis found in France, and not all secondary students go on to Cégep, though it is free, and most jobs nowadays require more education than the secondary system here provides - there are many programs in technics and trades.
Mandatory elementary education (école primaire) starts with grade 1, through to grade 6. Secondary school (école secondaire) has five grades, called secondary I-V (Sec I-V for short) or simply grades 7-11. Students are 12 to 16 years old (age of September 30), unless they repeat a grade. Upon completion of grade 11, students receive their high school diploma from the provincial government.
Wiki, education in Québec. As you can see, there are only 11 grades, so most jobs would require further technical or academic study.
However it might seem atypical to many North Americans, but bixa will have to fill us in on the system in Mexico.
Here are a few of this year's subjects. The exam took place last week.
-- Is all truth definitive?
-- Can a person be insensitive to art?
-- Can experience mislead one?
-- What can block my happiness?
-- Why should we search for the truth?
-- Is desire the mark of our imperfection?
-- Is it necessary to experience injustice to know what is right?
-- Can we renounce the truth?
Depending on their section, students see two possible choices, plus the 3rd option which is the explanation and critique of a text by a philosopher who was studied during the school year. I would be curious to know the percentages of the choices by students, but I don't think that is ever published.
Keep in mind that this part of the baccalaureat exam begins at 8am and continues until noon, so if you ever find any of the French people that you have met to be extremely long-winded and pedantic, this is probably one of the things that marked their lives.
The students choose just one subject from the three proposals that they receive. It is up to them to decide how long they should keep writing -- I think just about all of us have been faced with that dilemma.
Besides the actual content that one writes, it is considered essential to know how to present the proper form: introduction, development and conclusion. There are endless websites to confuse and dismay students regarding the proper methodology to be used.
Every year, a collections of "pearls" is published, generally showing extreme incomprehension of the subject or spectacular humour.
One example from last year: "Most civil servants in France are completely useless and cost too much money, except for high school teachers, who really do an incredible job and are not paid nearly enough."
I don't know if I mentioned this earlier, but the baccalaureat exams are taken at a test centre or school that the student does not attend and are graded by anonymous teachers who do not know the students' names or sex, just a code number. The correctors receive 5 euros per essay, which is probably disgracefully inadequate assuming that they really read the whole thing.
More fun for French students today. It was the history-geography part of the baccalaureat exam.
Discuss one of these two subjects:
a. China in the world since 1949 b. The governance of Europe since the treaty of Maastricht
part 2, using an unmarked map of the world: -- the unequal integration of territories in globalization (huh? )
For another group of students, discuss one of the following subjects:
a. The Near and Middle East, a hotbed of conflict since the end of WW2 b. Based on the examples studied during the year, discuss media and public opinion in the great political crises in France since the Dreyfus Affair
part 2 --
Subject: Are peacekeeping operations a reflection of the geopolitical organization of the world?
Instructions: What do these two maps of the geopolitical organization of the world show? What are their limits?
Document 1 - Main Contributing States to the UN Peacekeeping Missions Budget (2017) Document 2 - Main Contributing States in the number of soldiers in United Nations peacekeeping missions (2017)
I was told over the years while talking to teachers that the general level of kids has been going down -- they used to blame TV, now I suppose it's social media.
However, looking and the philosophy and history questions, there still seems to be the assumption that kids have learned something during their years at school and should be able to discuss it in an exam.