Franco-American Conversations – American High School vs. French Lycée

veronicamarsgraduatesIt seems like the French lycée (high school) system is a no-nonsense educational entity in France and compared to the American public high school (at least  to the public high school I attended in California), let’s simply say that we might as well be talking apples and oranges. This is not to say one is better than the other; just that the systems are like night and day, both having their own advantages and disadvantages. I’m constantly finding myself asking my s.o. about what it was like growing up in France. I almost can’t imagine living in that French world as a teenager.

Me: “What time did high school start and finish in France?”
SO: “It started at 8am and ended at 6pm, Monday through Saturday but only morning classes on Wednesday and Saturday.”
Me: “OMG those are LONG hours! We went from 8:30am to 3pm M-F. Saturday classes!? Yuck!”
Me: “Did you take any fun classes in lycée?”
SO: “Yeah, English and Math.”
Me: “THOSE aren’t fun! Especially MATH. I mean stuff like art, journalism, archery, horticulture, music, woodshop, sculpting, photography, football. You know, FUN fun classes.”
SO: “We didn’t have classes like that.”
Me: “WHAT? What if you wanted to learn how to play an instrument? Weren’t there classes to see if you would like to be a musician? Try out some instruments?”
SO: “No. No classes like that.”
Me: “Wasn’t there a band or orchestra? Or a chorus? What about a marching band?”
SO: “Nope.”
Me: “Well, I guess the marching band worked in conjunction with having a football team or other sports teams. So, did you have like a football team or tennis team or I dunno, a pétanque team?”
SO: “No, we didn’t have sports teams. We did have fitness class 3 hours a week.”
Me: “That’s all? So, what if you wanted to play an instrument or be in a band or play competitively on a sports team or learn how to make pottery or paint or draw?”
SO: “You had to do that outside of school, on your own, with clubs.”
Me: “Whoa. ok. Hmmmm.”
Me: “Could you design your own course?”
SO: “No.”
Me: “Did your school have a swimming pool?”
SO: “No.”
Me: “Did you have lockers?”
SO: “No.”
Me: “DId you have a student government?”
SO: “No.”
Me: “Did you have a graduation ceremony after you passed the Bac? You know, pomp and circumstance? Flipping the cap tassel and gowns and simultaneous cap throwing?”
SO: “No.”
Me: “School dances?”
SO: “No.”
Me: “A yearbook?”
SO: “No.”
Me: “A school newspaper?”
SO: “No.”
Me: “A school radio station?”
SO: “No.”
Me: “Did you have speakers in classrooms so that announcements could be made??”
SO: “No.”
Me: “Assemblies?”
SO: “Nyet.”
Me: “Lockouts?”
SO: “I don’t know what those are but most likely…no.”
Me: “Did you have detention? or other disciplinary action?”
SO: “Some punishments would be to sweep floors or clean classrooms. And Yes! I was collé / detained (literally: glued)”
Me: “A YES!!!!!”
SO: “Punishment is universal.”

August 22nd, 2006 by