French intellectuals love their own minds with a fervor that approaches delirium.
Distrusting the limited intelligence of the masses they hold, as an article of faith, that they should be making the important decisions.
They have little use for democratic processes and the free market. Thus, they are especially vulnerable to the siren song of totalitarian politics.
France’s new president, Francois Hollande is a socialist, not a communist. Yet, like his cohorts on the Left Bank he has been showing how much he loves his mind by demonstrating how little he respects reality. Links here and here.
Intellectuals tend to be idealists. They care more about their ideals than about reality. They assume that reality ought to correspond to their ideals. If it does they will do what is necessary to force the issue.
So, Hollande, good French intellectual that he is, took the ideals of social justice and equality and has decided that he wants to impose them on the French public school system.
Seeing that some children seem consistently to do better than others he has decided that he needs to level the educational playing field.
He does not want to do it by raising the achievement levels of underperforming children. He is proposing that France dumb down its educational system by banning homework.
Elizabeth Price Foley called it, aptly, the “No child gets ahead” principle.
Hollande and his advisers are sorely offended that some children grow up in homes where they receive more help with their homework.
These children, from advantaged homes, tend to do better in school. Hollande wants to rectify the situation by banning homework, with a few small exceptions.
The French government will prohibit all schoolteachers, especially in elementary school, from giving out homework assignments.
If you worship at the altar of equality you might think to yourself that it doesn’t matter whether the good students are dragged down or whether the bad students are helped to do better.
Doing equally bad is as good as doing equally good.
Doubtless someone had an epiphany one day and decided that banning homework would be a good way to deprive advantaged children of whatever advantages their parents are providing for them.
After all, if you are banning homework, you should also ban private tutors.
And then there are the practical implications, the results that would follow, as the night the day, if one were to continue on this path toward idealistic folly.
What if a child goes home and decides to do some extra reading or to do some extra practice on his multiplication tables? Should his parents be prosecuted for giving him something that a less advantaged family could not offer?
If the child of intelligent parents receives an advantage by conversing with his parents, should those parents be forbidden to talk to their children?
We know that children gain an advantage if they grow up in homes surrounded by books and other reading material. If disadvantaged children lack sufficient reading material in their homes, ought their more privileged counterparts have their books confiscated?
If some parents can offer their children music lessons or chess lessons, ought they to be forbidden to do so since these activities might give their children an unfair advantage?
If some parents can provide a better home than others, should they be forced to live in an apartment that is equal to that of disadvantaged children?
Consider this: what if the parents of privileged children compensate for the lack of homework assignments by hiring tutors or even by structuring their children’s learning experience at home.
If other parents do not have the wherewithal to do as much, ought more educated parents be banned from working on schoolwork at home?
In the end the policy can only work to the detriment of those who are disadvantaged.
Then there is the question of how you are going to enforce this silliness?
It’s easy to prevent teachers from giving homework assignments. But if some parents create their own homework exercises, should the government intervene to prevent them from doing so? How can it prevent children from preparing for tests at home?
Should schools punish children who excel because, presumably, their intelligent parents are providing them with an unfair advantage?
We should not ignore the fact that some children suffer an academic disadvantage because their home lives are chaotic. If a chaotic home life puts one child at a disadvantage ought the government to dictate chaotic homes for all children… in the name of equality and social justice?
I have gone slightly beyond what the French president is proposing. But if you follow his reasoning, that is where you end up.
Amazingly enough, the French president does not want all children to strive to do the best. He wants to degrade the educational opportunities of the best children because other children cannot keep up.
Today’s French children will grow up to compete with children from other parts of the world. Some will fall behind because their nation has decided to dumb down their educational requirements. Next thing you know, they will be banning the Tiger Mom.
One knew that French intellectuals have little real use for the work ethic. Who knew that they were also opposed to the homework ethic?
It takes intelligence to come up with such a stupid idea.
One is reminded of a line from Thomas Sowell:
There is usually only a limited amount of damage that can be done by dull or stupid people. For creating a truly monumental disaster, you need people with high IQs.