Yesterday I discovered that my lovely "prof responsable" at the lycée took her bac in 1968. Today I mentioned that to Claire and she said "1968? what's special about 1968?". Now I know we English believe the French are always going on strike (and they are), but in 1968 they *really* went on strike. Even more than in spring 2005. That wondrous fount of knowledge wikipedia introduces the topic thus:
"May 1968 (in this context usually spelled May '68) is the name given to a series of events that started with a student strike in France. It turned into a general strike which paralyzed parts of the country and caused the collapse of the de Gaulle government. Most of the protesters espoused left-wing causes, communism or anarchism. Many saw the events as an opportunity to shake up the "old society" in many social aspects, including methods of education, sexual freedom and free love. "May '68" was a failure from a political point-of-view; however, it can be argued that it had an important impact on French society and its values."
It goes on to tell one a lot more about the events, and even includes many of the slogans used by campaigners. I feel it's something one ought to know about, and it might tell us something about why the French think strikes are so normal…
Either way, my 'prof responsable' was taking her bac in Lyon and she didn't take part in the demonstrations because she needed to work, as she wanted to pass her exams. As it is, ironically, she'll never know if she passed because she deserved to or because it was 1968…though we can suppose the former!
This week my terminale students are taking their mock exams, known as "le bac blanc" (why a mock is white I am not entirely sure). At Claire's lycée, which is the biggest and best in Lyon, the teachers have boycotted the bac blanc and so the students are not having mocks this year. I feel there are two things to remark on here: firstly, it seems a stupid way for the teachers to campaign, as it is not the students' fault that the education system is changing, nor will anyone except the students really notice the absence of the bac blanc. Poor things.
Secondly, on the other hand, I can understand that the students need the practice and that in the long run they would regret not having done a mock but I know for sure that we'd have been over the moon if someone had cancelled our mocks…yet these french students seem upset about it. I think that's a bit odd.