6 January 2010
Writing about health issues also means thinking about how people learn — we all want our health professionals to be highly trained and educated. We are also generally mindful that talent should prevail over privilege. Such appears to be an issue for President Nicholas Sarkozy of France and the elitist Grandes Ecoles that enable the French elite to reproduce their status and privilege.
It is with some disgust that one learns that these institutions of knowledge are fearful that their standards would decline if they admitted people from poorer social backgrounds, and this in the land of equality and fraternity — perhaps these institutions need a history lesson.
It is a tired and dated rhetoric that income and social background should be determinants of future success. That such institutions in a country with such a commitment to intellectual debate should be fearful tells us more about them, than about France, itself.
As institutions funded from public sources, perhaps even more generously than the underfunded French universities, this should bestow upon them an even greater public duty to find the best and brightest in the land.
Le Monde is undoubtedly right when they say the Grandes Ecoles have had their day. Whether it is right to merge them with weakly performing universities may not be as wise, but redefining their admission practices to better help France meet the needs of the 21st Century would seem to be a priority.
This can be accomplished. The evidence from highly selective institutions of higher learning is to be blind to social factors and sharp-eyed for the bright and talented. Perhaps the continuing decline of much of value in France comes from its ossified system of higher education, which rewards the status quo, and discourages innovation — didn’t someone say the French don’t have a word for ‘entrepreneur’?
I weep not for those who covet privilege. In the end, it is worthless currency and those who seek it will become objects of ridicule. I can hear the bells now.