Brexited… Now What Should Europe Do?

Brexit Europe VisionAfter the surprising BREXIT vote by the people of the United Kingdom last Thursday, we have since certainly all been involved in heated debates regarding this topic. Amongst my Parisian friends, the conversation kept coming back to the English. And like in the “Journal du Dimanche”, the first two pages of a dedicated BREXIT segment were entirely focused on the UK.

The reactions on the continent have revolved around: the British are going to suffer; they are crazy; they do not understand the consequences; they are racist … But, I think, in these expressions, Europeans are mistaken in their conclusion. It would be better not to act as a jilted lover.

I personally feel more European than French (naturalized citizen). And, I think that Europe has a unique opportunity in this moment and must act resolutely.

Another friend opined that she was scared of what it meant. Here, I want to say that we need to move from fear into action.

In this context, I felt the urge to pen my point of view.

My advice to pro-Europeans: do not focus on the UK and the impact on them. Certainly, the reasons that motivated the vote are distressing; certainly, the UK may see the pound weakened and their economy struggle … but the real issue is:

 What to make of Europe?

brexit chinese-symbol-for-crisisAs the Chinese* would say: in any crisis, there is danger and opportunity. The requirement on the European side is not to draw up the best retribution possible against the Brits, but instead to focus its energies to find its own way and take care of itself. Angela Merkel rightly said: “Do not make fast conclusions about the British decision…”

Europe needs to understand – in a deeper way – why the Brexit vote happened. Sure, it was the 50+ year-old lesser educated English person who voted LEAVE in a bid to restore British sovereignty. But, in reality, the problem is that the British have not found enough reason to belong to Europe. Nicolas Sarkozy, for whatever he may be worth, is right in saying, “The British are gone: it’s their choice. We must now act fast and strong. “(JDD p6).

The risks

The three biggest risks BREXIT poses for Europe are:

  1. A wave of nationalism takes over Europe (e.g. France, Austria, the Netherlands…), driven by fear of immigration and a need to regain lost national pride. We should keep a beady eye on the presidential elections in France and Germany next year. And one should not forget the risk (and the need for a robust response by Europe and the US) of the resurgent near-despotic Russian nationalism.
  2. The European economy does not reboot, leaving an unhealthy level of unemployment, the younger generations in a precarious position and a stagnant intra-European movement of population. Note: the destabilizing effects of a non-harmonized tax system and uncoordinated state expenditures render the Euro currency totally flawed.
  3. That the people in European countries feel increasingly trapped in a Europe in which they do not recognize themselves; and, do not find a net benefit versus the apparent cost. So we’re bound to see other European countries embark on their own EXIT. We are already talking about similar votes in several countries. This all points to the fact that a strong anti-European sentiment existed well before the vote in the UK.

The stakes are high and the risks are real. But, it is important to stress that they existed before the BREXIT vote. In fact, these topics were fully discussed before; but, the 28 members at the table were nowhere near finding a solution, stuck in endemic bureaucracy and consensual decision-making. The problem is that nobody (in Brussels, in particular) has ever felt enough urgency. It’s like running a business with an over-populated Executive Committee. An ExCom of 28 27 people is just unmanageable.

The Opportunities

The opportunities for Europe – or even unintended consequences – are:

  1. To define the vision (aka its NORTH) of Europe, something that could be made easier without the presence and the nit-picky point of view of the English. Firstly, one would have to imagine a future in which Europe has a definite place in the world, and with which members can identify themselves. Secondly, we should agree on the de facto shared values. To date, neither the vision nor the common values are clear.

    brexit ideal europe

    The Ideal House by Claude Nicolas Ledoux, 1770

  2. To address how to mobilize the European economy from the inside – instead of focusing how to repulse or ensnare the new entrants (e.g. Google, Facebook and Alibaba); to encourage entrepreneurship and the free movement of people between countries; and to collaborate on strategic projects (not just Airbus). N.B. High taxation and bureaucracy are not favorable conditions for business.
  3. With a well-defined North, Brussels must be prepared and able to make tough decisions. For example: to clean Europe of members who do not play by the rules. Consensus – as a process – is not friendly with making difficult decisions.
  4. Not forgetting that if Europe acts appropriately, Scotland and Northern Ireland could decide to join the EU …

In the vision of the Europe of tomorrow, there is a need to identify one or more values that are held in common.* This must be an ideal and/or a behavioural trait that is shared de facto by the people living there. Europe needs to take decisive and joint action that demonstrates a clear ambition and that unites. One would need to streamline the decision-making in Brussels to become fleeter of foot. Will there ever be an alignment of tax policies and, even more complicated, over the role of the state (e.g., level of expenditures) within each country?

REDEFINING EUROPE

Although many repudiate the idea, Europe would perhaps need a real orchestral conductor. Is there an appetite on the part of citizens (and their governments) to give up more power and sovereignty to a meta-structure, with a European president? But, even imagining it were accepted, would there be a person up to the task? Angela Merkel would present the best (only?) option.

Many questions and concerns. But these issues should have been debated and resolved much earlier. Now, it’s time to take the bull by the horns.

WHAT IF BREXIT WERE THE RIGHT DECISION … FOR EUROPE?

Brexit or Breaks It

If, as a result of the UK’s decision, Europe undertakes radical changes that will ensure the future of Europe, BREXIT would have had a happy unexpected intention: Europe will have received the necessary kick in the butt to provoke the change. But, if Europe implodes, this would indicate that the UK had good reason to withdraw. Perhaps, the UK’s departure will be the straw that breaks the camel’s back, but, in my opinion, the proverbial camel was already heavily overloaded.

Either way, I maintain that Brexiting was the right decision, even if the reasoning that underpinned this vote were unfortunate.

As a first (small) act of the new Europe: At the time of Euro 2016, I would propose to create a European team for each sport (not just golf)!

Europe: Now’s the time for us to act together!

* Although the United States are far from exemplary on many points, there exists a common shared value – across the 50 states – a fundamental belief: every individual has the right to build his/her own future. This kind of shared value binds and transcends all the American people. May the EU find its own!

 

*My friend, Takuya san, pointed out that the ideogram I had originally posted was wrong (it meant “storm wind”). So, I have replaced it with the correct characters! Arigato Takuya san!

PS Here was the post I wrote before the Brexit vote.

Mixing it up in the French Government – Model of diversity?

In a democratic sense, the Government is the representation of the people.  As such, you might expect the notion of “fair” representation to be more heralded by the latest Sarkozy government, ushered in the last week of June 2009.  The new cabinet, under the loyal PM François Fillon, announced on June 25, covering the 38 ministries, contains 8 new people and the mélange is rather interesting.  If it is still not fully representative from a socio-demographic standpoint, the latest Sarkozy cabinet covers a wide spectrum of races, age, sex and ideology.

Fillon IV, New Sarkozy Government at Elysees Palace
Sarkozy’s Shuffle:  Fillon IV – The new government

25 men and 13 women (of which just 4 are full portfolio ministers, down from 7 full ministers in the prior cabinet, while 9 are junior ministers).  13/38 = 32%

In terms of age distribution, 5 ministers are under 40 years old, 12 are over 60.

There are a handful of “French liberals” aka capitalists or just “conservatives” (P Lellouche, H de Raincourt, H Novelli, D Bussereau, H Falco), another handful of centrists (H Morin, M Mercier, V Létard, C Blanc & AM Idrac) and yet another handful that could be said to sway more toward the “left” (Hirsch, Kouchner, Eric Besson, Frédéric Mitterrand et JM Bockel).

There are 4 ministers that represent “diversity” and all four are women.  Insofar as France, following in Norway’s footsteps, has imposed a quota of 40% of women on executive and advisory boards (of state and publicly traded companies) by 2015 (20% by 2011), this Sarkozy government is well on track, if perhaps a little light among the full portfolio ministers.

I was particularly interested by the preliminary words used by President Sarkozy to his assembled team (I transliterate): “ Don’t speak too quickly to the journalists, until you have a good grasp of your subject.  Show solidarity with your fellow cabinet ministers, don’t transgress on each other’s territory (aka don’t step on each other’s toes), and don’t forget that you are NOT in your position just to recycle dossiers that have been prepared for you by your administration.”  (note the double negative).

In these lines, one can read many things.  Communication is absolutely key to success.   Be master of your destiny by gaining knowledge (and I might have added more field work).  And, providing Sarkozy defines carefully enough the said territories, then it will be possible not to interfere with one another’s work.  That said, with such a diverse population in his cabinet, one could also expect to have diverse interpretations.  And that is the benefit and the difficulty of diversity.  Let us see how Sarkozy and PM François Fillon manage. 

MEDEF Débat – Bâtir le leadership {français) en Europe

J’ai participé à la première heure du débat monté hier soir par le MEDEF dans le cadre de leur programme “Bâtir le leadership Europe.” La question posée pour ce débat était: “L’influence française à Bruxelles: le vrai et le faux” — A quatre mois avant les prochaines élections européenes, quelle est la réalité de l’influence française?

La salle, qui avait autour de 400 places, a débordé de participants. Le débat, animé par le journaliste économique, Arnaud Fleury, avait comme intervenants principaux: Jean Quatremer (Les Coulisses de Bruxelles), Anne Dufermont (Dir Govt et Industry Affairs, Rohm & Haas), Henri Thomé (Bouygues, Dir des Affaires Européenes), Michel Troubetzkoy (EADS), Sonia Plecita-Ridzikova (policy officer, DG des Affaires Economiques et Financieres de la CE), Bertrand Deprez (Think Tank, The Centre).

Jean-Dominique Giuliani, Président de la Fondation Robert Schuman, a lancé le débat avec une question : est-ce que la France apporte quelque chose de différent à l’Europe, ou, sont les objectifs de la France et l’Europe en commun? Ceux sont des questions pertinentes, me suis-je dit.

Voici le receuil de quelques autres commentaires/discours d’intérêt.

Troubetzkoy a parlé des 3 grandes périodes pour la France en Europe [en tout cas dans l’ère moderne]: (1) la période avant le marché unique avec “la belle époque de l’influence française…”; (2) l’installation du marché unique où les intérêts de l’Europe et la France ont divergé avec la mauvais résultat de Nice, le vote NON en France en mai 2005 et l’elargissement de la communauté; (3) depuis 2007, avec le renouveau d’une belle expérience, ou la France est passée d’un dispositif défensif à l’offensif.

Quatremer, qui n’a pas voté pour Nicolas Sarkozy bien entendu (car journaliste Libération), a félicité le pragmatisme de la règne européene de Sarkozy–un pragmatisme “dont seuls les Britanniques sont capable normalement.” Tout le succès des 6 mois de la présidence française de l’Europe a été tenu sur les épaules d’un seul homme. Ca veut tout dire!

Avec l’animation rhythmé, le forum était bien intéressant. J’ai noté qu’il y avait — a mon sens trop pour un débat — une grande similarité / unanimité par rapport au role de Sarkozy dans la présidence européene. La présidence française a absolument augmenté l’influence de la France — même sur le plan mondial. Mais, si on revoit la définition de leadership, n’est-ce pas un bon leader quelqu’un qui fait grandir le prochain leader? Clairement, la présidence tchèque n’a pas de bonne augure. Bon, sinon, je ne peux qu’être d’accord sur l’impressionant coup de fouet qu’a joué Sarkozy.

OBAMA inspires Pepsi, Ben & Jerry and more…

Obama Presidential 2008 LogoAs we prepare for the January 20, 2009 inauguration of President-elect Obama (which you can follow with live streaming on Facebook/CNN) there are several organisations that have come up with marketing initiatives showing the speed and conviction of certain brands and people.  Obama Yes We CanWith the momentum, tremendous popularity and hype surrounding Obama’s arrival, brands that have seen fit to align themselves with the President-elect have clearly shown entrepreneurial spirit for being able (a) to create a concrete link and (b) to mix politics and business so overtly. 

I have done a quick list of the three best cross-promotions around his campaign and upcoming presidency.  

New Pepsi Can Obama LogoIn reverse order, coming in third, I look at the new Pepsi logo — which was launched in  autumn 2008, and see a subtle resemblance (Advertising Age talks here about the evolution in the logo) to the Obama ’08 logo. Touching the cornerstone brand’s logo under the influence of the Obama campaign is fairly bold move.
Yes Pecan - Obama, Ben & JerryComing in second, is Ben & Jerry who have launched a new flavour: YES PECAN.  Per the site, Ben & Jerry says, this new flavour has “Amber Waves of Buttery Ice Cream with Roasted Non-Partisan Pecans…”  And, if you buy Yes Pecan, they donate the proceeds to the Education Fund of The Common Cause, “…a nonpartisan, nonprofit advocacy organization founded as a vehicle for citizens to make their voices heard in the political process.”  B&J have a full social media package, with a page on Facebook too.

Sarkozy Yes We CanAnd, coming in first, Greenpeace France who, in early December 2008, surreptiously plastered Paris with a poster of France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy, emblazoned with YES WE CAN, and imitating the (outspoken street artist) Shepard Fairey campaign HOPE poster of Obama (below left).  It took a while for the owner of the poster to come to light, helping to create a good amount of buzz.  Nominally allying France with the USA, the Greenpeace SarkObama campaign was in an effort to convince Sarkozy to reduce greenhouse gases by 30%.  Here is the story from the Windsor Star (Ontario, Canada) as well as, en français, on the Greenpeace blog.  

Obama Hope Poster

Having just completed this post, I did a last minute review online about this topic and, to my amusement, found that NPR had run exactly the same type of article on Jan 16, with the difference that they found the IKEA “Embrace Change
’09
” campaign too.

Obamania Worldwide – The Dreams & The Reality

OBAMANIA & OTHER REFLECTIONS ON A SUNDAY MORNING

Barack & Michelle ObamaThe effect of the Obama victory overseas has been impressive. Much like the initial outpouring after September 11th, 2001, since November 5th, 2008, I have come across a newfound sense of support for the US from many different corners of the world, and the support is quite similar in intensity. For most foreigners with whom I speak, the sentiment goes along the lines: You, Americans (at least on the coasts), faced with the biggest worldwide economic crisis in a century, 2 long unfinished wars, an Osama Bin Laden still on the lam, the prospect of ecological disasters and the risk of more voter scandals (untested new urns), overcame the urge for a recidivist reactionary vote, to adopt and hail its base values by electing Obama.

What is driving this support around the world for Obama? In part, I detect an enormous feeling of hope, like the release of a good dream.Dream He represents hope that change is truly going to come. What is said can be done. That diversity is not just a buzz word. I also detect that many are putting their hopes on the shoulders of Americans to rebolster the world, a world that is increasingly rocky. Beyond the economic crisis and environmental concerns, the Western world is worried by the deeper, structural issues including the rise of China, the Russian renaissance, the continuing splintering of nationalities and ethnicities as well as the omen of global terrorism. I don’t mean to have visions of grandeur for the Americans, but we all need to dream and many people seem to have tied up their dreams with Obamania. Aside from the 66.7 million American voters, Muslim communities around the world, the African community (well beyond Kenya), even a town in Japan have identified or associated themselves with Obama. And in the “If the World Could Vote” site, 87.3% of the nearly 900,000 people (up from the 49,000 I wrote about in my September post) casting their online selection for Obama.

Few would doubt that Obama’s plate is eminently full. As a black Parisian radiologist, Maxim, said to me, “it is a poisoned gift.”

For Obama and the Americans, all the real work is now ahead and it will be important to observe (a) the level and effectiveness in the bipartisanship — I have been positively impressed by the effect of President Sarkozy had in bringing in several valuable Socialists into his government; and (b) how Obama manages against the oh-so-high expectations. If the Democratic party were to get a filibuster-proof 60 seats in the Senate (3 seats still undecided) and with the strong House representation (between 255-259 seats), there is a chance that Obama will be able to put through a good portion of his vision. But, what happens systematically — it seems no matter the president, the party or the country — is that there is a boomerang effect some 12-18 months after induction into office. The dissatisfied electorate then “punishes” the standing leader, curbs his or her power and the result is a near lame-duck experience for the remaining years. I have started to think that this is just a natural cycle in democracy. More likely than not, an external and/or unexpected event will likely occur that will unbalance the apple cart and, whether or not his policies have had time to work, will have a material impact on his presidency. It does seem ironic that an unexpected event will be likely. But, this, too, seems to be a part of the natural cycle.

Four More Reflections

As I ponder this Sunday morning, there are four more things I would like to say about the past couple of weeks.

China Flag1/ Don’t you find it symbolic that the Chinese bailout plan at $586B is just below the US one in size ($700B)? Although, compared to its GDP (China’s is estimated at US$3-4 trillion versus $14 trillion for the US), the Chinese effort is far more seismic. You get the feeling that the turning point is around the corner. The burgeoning question for me is how will we, Americans, manage to alter our mania for consumption, so much a fibre of today’s US society?


Speed Limit = 50 mph 2/ Forty’s are in. Obama, at 47 years old, joins a healthy stable of “forty-something” leaders. Georgia’s President Mikheil Saakashvili is the youngest I could find at 41 years old. Russia’s President Dmitri Medvedev and Sweden’s PM Fredrik Reinfeldt are 43. Ukraine’s Yulia Tymoshenko, Ireland’s Brian Cohen and Spain’s Jose Luis Zapatero are 48. Canada’s Stephen Harper is 49. I am sure that I have missed out a few others — but these are all (with the exception of Harper) leaders born in the 1960s. [Note, among other notables, that Sarkozy (53), Merkel (54), and Putin (56) are, with the majority of other leaders, in their 50s.]

3/ Seeing that Obama is a Web 2.0 President-elect (he has his own Twitter, MyBarackObama blog, YouTube, etc), how far can he be a Sustainable Development-President as well? See here for a prior post on the relatedness of web 2.0 and sustainable development. Certainly, this article by Thomas Claburn at InformationWeek
would seem to back up the possible correlation. ADDED 22 NOVEMBER: I was turned on to this NY Times article, “Generation O get its hopes up” (Nov 7) after publishing this post. Obama communicated in a way that “spoke” to people. As the article writes, “Government under Mr. Obama, they believe, would value personal disclosure and transparency in the mode of social-networking sites. Teamwork would be in fashion, along with a strict meritocracy.”

4/ Did you realize that within two days of each other, Obama won the US Presidency, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga won the Paris Masters 2008 and was crowned #1 for France, while Lewis Hamilton became the youngest ever Formula 1 Champion? As both Hamilton and Tsonga are 23 1/2 years old, Obama at 47 is exactly double their age. And all three of them are métise (specifically a black father and a white mother). Rather remarkable, no?

Your thoughts?

Global Gender Gap 2008 Report – Who’s on Top?

The World Economic Forum have just released the results of the Global Gender Gap Report 2008.

Yin & YangThere are a few suprising facets to this WEF report, now in its third year, authored by Ricardo Hausmann, Director, Centre for International Development, Harvard University, Laura Tyson, Professor at University of California, Berkeley, and Saadia Zahidi from the WEF.  First, what strikes me is the tremendous dynamism in the results — from one year to another a country can change by more than 30 places (as France did jumping from 51st to 15th).  Secondly, the list of sponsoring companies for the research includes a number of banks, consultancies and a car company hardly known for women’s equality as well as the employment services company MANPOWER.

Gender Gap
Those quibbles aside, the research shows that there is a “…a strong correlation between competitiveness and the gender gap scores.”  And the report indicates once again the strength of the equality movement in Scandinavia, with Norway coming out on top this year ahead of its neighbouring Scandinavian countries.   Here is the list of the top 10 for 2008.  Noteworthy for being absent from the top 10 (I should say again) are the United Kingdom (13th) and the United States (27th, behind Cuba) which scores highest in “economic participation and opportunity.”  And, fairly astonishing for being in the top 10 are the Philippines and Latvia.  The report voluntarily overweights the importance of having female leadership — as a way of providing visible role models (which clearly boosted the Philippines).  How much credit for France’s rise goes to Ségolène Royal (and Carla Bruni)?.  A

Global Gender Gap Index

Rank 2008
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
Country

Norway
Finland
Sweden
Iceland
N. Zealand
Philippines
Denmark
Ireland
Netherlands
Latvia

Score*

0.824
0.820
0.814
0.800
0.786
0.757
0.754
0.752
0.740
0.740

Rank 2007
2
3
1
4
5
6
8
9
12
13
*0 to 1 scale: 0=inequality, 1=equality

The report establishes the following “top line” numbers, indicating that on balance things are tending to get better, although there were nearly twice as many countries where the gap was widening in 2008 versus 2007 as opposed to the prior year.  The big conclusions of the report are that the world has again shown progress in closing the gaps in economic, political and education; however, it has actually lost ground on the health gaps.

Gender Gap 2008 Report

The criteria for selection are worth citing:
Male & Female Signs“The Report examines four critical areas of inequality between men and women:
1. Economic participation and opportunity – outcomes on salaries, participation levels and access to high-skilled employment
2. Educational attainment – outcomes on access to basic and higher level education
3. Political empowerment – outcomes on representation in decision-making structures
4. Health and survival – outcomes on life expectancy and sex ratio”

Meanwhile, tailing off the bottom of the list are a host of countries without need for comment: Saudi Arabia, Chad and YemenIndia (113rd) landed basically on par with Iran (116th).  Japan wallowing in at 98th is a blemish…especially when you find higher up Mongolia (40th), Kyrgyz Republic (41st) and Russia (42nd).  Italy lies at 68th, not exactly brilliant.  Meanwhile, I thought Turkey (123rd) might have ranked higher.

Here is the writeup from the BBC and from TIME (with a good and lively analysis).  If nothing else, the research and report allow for some debate and exposure to this very important issue.

Rousing Speech by President Sarkozy (Toulon, Sept 25 2008)

President Nicolas Sarkozy made a startlingly strong speech tonight (September 25, 2008) in Toulon, at the Zenith, in front of 4,000 people. His speech was marked by personal engagement & responsibility, a bold acknowledgment of the unpopularity of certain of his decisions as well as an unveiled description of the risks of the current economic crisis. The crisis, he said, is a reason to accelerate the reforms rather than postpone them.

Nicolas Sarkozy spoke of reformulating the capitalist model à la française — with a grand reduction of the bureaucracy and the elimination of 30,600 state jobs in 2009 (including a diminution of the number of local collectivities), a reform of the educational institutions (-13,500 jobs) as well as the hospitals (with a system of rewards for heightened productivity). Sarkozy also proclaimed the demineralization of the golden parachutes for corporate heads.

In a certain way, I am inclined to call his form of capitalism as Lime Capitalism — a little green, that is. Clearly, Sarkozy is looking to refurbish the right to be an entrepreneur in France and, at the same time, indicated that the State has a role in accelerating the transition to greener solutions (via the incentive of “bonus/malus”). And, as a marker of his desire for a more rapid, effective action, he asked whether Europe would be capable of taking as strong a stance and as rapidly as Treasury Secretary Paulson (left) did in demanding the controversial $700 billion bailout. Sarkozy affirmed, meanwhile, the protection of the savings of all French people should the banking bankruptcies cross the Atlantic.

As a baseline for his lime capitalism, Sarkozy said (and I translate), “If we should tax less investment, tax less work, penalize less effort and success, and tax less one’s own products, one should on the other hand tax pollution.”

Echoing many of his initial messages and promises of his presidential campaign, Sarkozy seemed confident, serious and engaged. My favourite line from his speech was: “The current crisis should prompt us to rebuild the foundations of capitalism on the ethics of effort and work, to find a balance between freedom and rules, and between collective and individual responsibility.” In sum, he was pleading for a new balance between the state and the [free] market.

What I enjoyed most about the speech was the way he took responsibility for his decisions. Rare is the boss that takes such leadership on his government’s policies and pronounce so clearly a personal engagement on the results. I would describe Sarkozy’s Toulon speech, written by his favourite plume, Henri Guaino, as a model way to stand up in the face of difficult times — in stark contrast to Senator John McCain’s approach I might add of putting on hold his campaign — and a way to rally the French people and businesses behind him.

Here is an executive transcript of the speech with some analysis, thanks to 20minutes.fr. And if you want the full monty, it is now out, here — here thanks to Le Monde.

And how did/do you react to Sarkozy’s speech?

English Lessons for the French courtesy of French Government

Ici on parle franglaisXavier Darcos, France’s Education Minister announced the giving of free [correction] English lessons over the summer months (starting next year) to willing students. What a shift in direction for the French who tend to promote francophonie. See here for the BBC News article.

When you hear the number of Anglicisms that have encroached into daily French conversation–either for effect (“c’est ok?”), affect (“la bottom line, mes amis”), or because the word does not exist in French (“accountabilité“)–you can understand the pragmatism behind this action.

Here’s an article written (in approx 2005) by Dr Christopher Rollason on Anglicisms in French and Spanish. As Dr Rollason says, Yves Laroche-Claire and Bernard Pivot, who published in 2004 an anti-anglicisms dictionary “Évitez le franglais, parlez français“, may “have their work cut out for them.”

Since President Sarkozy once said to a crowd of British investors that they were welcome to invest in “Frence”… he himself could do with a tune up.

Are you for or against such an offer?

King Abdallah II opens MEDEF “Think Big” 2008 Conference

King Abdallah II at MEDEF Thing Big 2008 Conference

The kick off of the MEDEF’s Université d’Ete 2008 “Voir en Grand / Think Big” was made this afternoon at the Polytechnique campus outside of Paris. Laurence Parisot, President of the MEDEF, introduced his Majesty King Abdallah II of Jordan who gave a 20-minute speech (before going off to meet with President Sarkozy). The King’s speech lauded the efforts of France in the Middle East and said that France remains one of the most important partners for Jordan. King Abdallah is clearly a trail blazer. Dressed in a conservative red tie, he introduced himself in an elegant French, then passed into English for the main speech. Abdallah has his own website (see KingAbdallah.jo) and emphasized the importance of private enterprise in the development of his country. King Abdallah clearly exemplifies Think Big.

Two messages delivered by King Abdallah that struck me (paraphrased below):

* More than half of Jordan’s population is under 18 years old. A young demography, highly educated, with energy for change.
* Until Palestinians are given a home, there will continue to be a fragility in the trust between the Muslim World and the West. Otherwise, there will continue to be instability in the region. What struck me was that there is only tension with the West. Frankly, it seems a straightforward answer — if a little over-simplified.

As Ms. Parisot stated, King Abdallah is a visionary — with bold ambitions. Ms. Parisot mentioned the singular project that Jordan is joint-running with Israel to create a canal between the Red Sea to the Dead Sea. The project which is due to begin in 2011, will include draining the Red Sea into the Dead Sea — what a concept. The project will then enable hydroelectric power as well as the supply of desalinsated water (850 million cubic metres/year). Read here for the wikipedia entry.

Sex Education Training

What’s the difference between training and education?

If you are in or interested in education, you should enjoy this explanation which I heard via Mitch Joel in his intro to Six Pixel’s of Separation podcast #104. Quoting a conference speaker Mitch heard in Toronto, he shared with us how to make the difference:

Any of you fathers in the audience have a daughter? If so, the question I have for you is whether you would rather your daughter have sex training or have sex education?

Simple distinction.

So, what does education mean? As Socrates believed, education (educere, to lead or draw out in Latin), is about making apparent what you already know. For example, one is led to understand one’s own value system. But, it also speaks in part to the pedagogical method of having people learn through experiment or experience: the interaction brings out the learning–in which case training has all its place. Merriam-Webster writes as a second definition of education: “the knowledge and development resulting from an educational process.” A school formally considers imparting knowledge as its core contribution to a student’s education. The question, however, is to what extent a school’s remit is to work on the secondary component, that of development? What should “development” look like? Learning how to learn, rewarding curiosity, instilling manners & discipline, teamwork, sex education… etc. Where does it start and end?

In France, in the Figaro of 6 June 2008, LCI OpinionWay presents the results of a survey saying that 89% of those interviewed were favourable to an obligatory « real moral and ethical instruction » at primary schools. In the same survey, 93% said that French primary education needed to return to the basic knowledge of reading, writing and counting. For the debate on France’s national education, see page 12 of the pdf file here.

Another interesting question in the same survey, showed that 31% of respondents believe that it is a priority to reform the training of the teachers, in France. And in a curious spin, the survey showed a range of 18% up to 52%, according to the Presidential candidate the respondent voted for: basically with those voting for the left [Ségolène Royal 18%] feeling reform is less a priority while on the right [Sarkozy 44% and Le Pen 52%] feeling that it is more a priority. Voters of Bayrou were down the middle at 36%.

In French, the word education is typically translated as “formation.” The Larousse writes: “Conduite de la formation de l’enfant ou de l’adulte.” Etymologically, formation is quite a strong term — ironically, word formation is a definition of etymology, too. In its execution, however, “formation” is regularly closer to “training.” Education encompasses a wider mandate and, in the case of sex [or athletics] training, is less a question of repetition and more about the context. I tend naturally to attribute to education terms such as ‘life skills.’ And I continue to advocate that sports is a very good way to bring life skills into the education of a child.

In any event, as a close to this post, when I asked a couple of mothers of daughters whether they preferred their daughter(s) receive sex training or sex education, they both smiled and said, under certain conditions, each had their benefit. Even sex training depends on the context.