Monday, March 28, 2011

The American Dream

So, I have noticed quite a few differences between France and America on a basic sort of level and there is one thing that I keep coming back to as a reason or as a source for the differences.

Socialism versus Capitalism:
the war is waged!

The American economy and the American way of life is centered around capitalism, just as France is centered around socialism and these lead to two very different viewpoints of life.  Disclaimer, this is only what I have perceived and have no tangible proof to give. 

To start this off, I will give tell you a story.  This story was told to me by a friend named Landry Digeon, a French  man who is currently living in Barcelona.  He was told this story as a child by his parents.

There were three mice sitting at home playing together when their mother comes in.  The mother mouse says to the kids "I have to leave for a little while.  I love you and you need to stay here and be good, whatever you do, don't leave the house.  It's dangerous out there."
"Yes mom, of course we'll do what you say"
As soon as the mother mouse had left the house, the oldest brother mouse says to his brother "I want to go out, see what's out there."  And he leaves.  Soon after he leaves his little hole in the wall, the cat of the house sneaks up on him and kills him.
The second baby mouse says to the smallest brother, "I'm going out, I want to explore the world, see you later."  He gets a little further than the first mouse but gets struck down by the orange tabby a little further away than the first brother.
The last mouse, says to himself "I wanna see the world," he leaves the home and sees the bodies of his two older brothers on the ground and quickly scurries back to his house.  He waits for his mother to come home and when she hears the story of the other two brothers, she says "they should have listened to me and stayed home."

When Landry finished telling me this story, he said that if it was an American story, it is sure that the mice would live happily ever after, but after finding their dream on the outside. 

It really amazes me, the French children are taught from such a young age to obey and not deviate from the standard while American children are told to "Be what you want to be, if you want it enough you can achieve it."  And this is what I am finding here.  Children don't care to succeed in school, they only care about doing the absolute minimum because somewhere along the way, they can get some mediocre job that they will hate (most French people hate their jobs) and retire at 62 and they are "content" with that.

Americans are always told to be the best, be better than the other person; it is a competitive society and so we strive to earn good grades, we strive to get the best job, we strive to be better than we previously were.  Maybe, I am totally biased, but a lot of what I see in the educational system here can be contributed to this.  The kids are never asked to be creative.  In America, we have projects, quizzes, tests, group work, so that each student can be challenged to be creative and inventive and unique.  I don't see that here.  Students aren't supposed to think, really.  It is more like regurgitation of the information that they have learned.

I think it is so interesting that some of the major differences that I notice between our nations can be linked to basically to the government and economic way of life.  Do I feel a thesis coming on? Maybe.  Just in time to apply to Grad School.

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