Socialism, like the ancient ideas from which it springs, confuses the distinction between government and society. As a result of this, every time we object to a thing being done by government, the socialists conclude that we object to its being done at all. We disapprove of state education. Then the socialists say that we are opposed to any education. We object to a state religion. Then the socialists say that we want no religion at all. We object to state-enforced equality. Then they say that we are against equality. And so on, and so on. It is as if the socialists were to accuse us of not wanting persons to eat because we do not want the state to raise the grain.– Bastiat
It is hard to believe that those words came from the mouth of a Frenchman, given the state of Liberty in France today. It used to be said that if you want to know about America, you should ask a Frenchman. Nowadays, if you want to know the future trajectory of Democratic Socialism, watch a Frenchman. In a country famous for its leisure, laxity, and public debt, President Hollande has just added another brick in the Wall of Futility. His administration has proposed banning homework in France. Under his peerless leadership, homework would be illegal in France. One would think that if one’s country was falling behind, it might behoove one to buckle down, bite the bullet and redouble one’s efforts. Apparently, Francois feels otherwise.
When has a country ever regained former prominence by lowering the bar? What Olympic athletes train less after missing the medal stand the first time? How many employees get promoted after showing less initiative in successive years (public-sector union employees aside)? France is already failing to educate its children. The 2009 Program for International Student Assessment ranked France 21st in reading, 22nd in math, and 27th in science. (Note: before we do too much back-patting, the US did not fare much better).
What’s Hollande’s strategy here? It seems to be “If it ain’t working, break it some more”.
The reason given is as faulty as the solution. Hollande believes homework to be “unfair”. His position is that homework favors the wealthy. Of course it is true that many children do not have parents who are able (or willing) to help them with their homework. Sadly this is true all around the world and across all levels of income.
It is a stronger argument that homework favors the diligent, not simply the wealthy. It always has. Those students who are diligent and work the hardest tend to receive the best grades, regardless of income inequality. Who will fare better, the son of an oil tycoon who has his private tutor write all his papers or the son of a grocery clerk who does his homework by candlelight each night while his father works the night shift? Does it require more effort on the part of the lower-income families? In many cases, it does. But these families also have more to gain. It’s a logical statement that children of lower-income families stand a greater chance of bettering their economic standing by doing well in school than the children of higher-income families doing an equivalent job.
Chances are good that the son of the grocery clerk will take the dedication and work ethic which he was forced to develop by completing his homework and go on to be successful in life, no matter what career he chooses. It is almost certain that he will be more economically successful than his father. The son of the oil tycoon will likely continue to struggle throughout his life when asked to complete a task on his own. While his family’s wealth might have helped him complete his homework easier, it did not benefit his long-term development. He stands nearly no chance of surpassing his father’s success. As my guy Francisco D’Anconio said, “Only the man who does not need it, is fit to inherit wealth – the man who would make his own fortune no matter where he started. If an heir is equal to his money, it serves him; if not, it destroys him . . . Money will not serve the mind who cannot match it,” (Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged).
And so what French children will learn, if Hollande is successful, is that poverty can prevent success in France. They have accepted the limitations placed on opportunity by poverty. Instead of choosing to emphasize and encourage those who refuse to kowtow to a diminished concept of freedom as a result of their economic stratum, they have accepted those limitations as immutable and have asked the warden for another set of manacles.
In tragically ironic fashion, the French have managed to find yet another thing to surrender to: the rigors of homework.
Image: French President Francois Hollande