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April 06, 2006 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 2006-04-06

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4A - The Michigan Daily - Thursday, April 6, 2006

OPINION

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DoNN M. FRESARD
Editor in Chief

EMILY BEAM
CHRISTOPHER ZBROZEK
Editorial Page Editors

ASHLEY DINGES
Managing Editor

NOTABLE QUOTABLE
It is not a typical Massachusetts-Taxachusetts,
oh-just-crazy-liberal plan."
- Professor Stuart H. Altman of Brandeis University, on a Massachusetts bill that would provide
nearly universal health coverage to its residents, as reported yesterday by The New York Times.
VIEWPOINT
The French, masters of protest

i

EDITED AND MANAGED BY STUDENTS AT
THE UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN SINCE 1890
420 MAYNARD STREET
ANN ARBOR, MI 48109
tothedaily@michigandaily.com

Unsigned editorials reflect the official position of the Daily's editorial board. All
other signed articles and illustrations represent solely the views of their author.

BY ANDREW PERRINE
I'm currently studying abroad in Aix-en-
Provence in southern France, but I haven't
been to class in five weeks. My university is
on strike. Starting last week, our program
began offering provisional classes to make
sure we don't have too much time on our
hands in this sun-drenched vacation spot.
In fact, I should've been in class Tuesday.
But as appealing as "D'Aubigne, Chateau-
briand, Malraux: trois representations lit-
eraires de l'insurrection" sounded, I opted
to play hooky to attend the most massive,
well-orchestrated and seamless expression
of civil unrest I've ever seen with my own
two eyes. As I watched the French in action,
I got the distinct impression that they had
done this before.
Unlike the few American protests I've seen,
I barely detected any self-conscious forced
enthusiasm. Instead, the manifestation in
Marseille was unreserved and unapologetic.
This charivari of Prime Minister Dominique
de Villepin and President Jacques Chirac left
many dummies noosed and caricatures guil-
lotined amid a constant stream of Gallic epi-
thets. A huge fountain was decorated with the
battered body of a cardboard-and-foam prime
minister and dyed with his red blood.
But it wasn't just punk kids having fun
- the giant crowd included parents, grand-
parents and employees of all sorts. The
unions say attendance was 250,000; the
police say 35,000. I estimate the crowd
could've easily filled Michigan Stadium.
But for what, exactly? Most obviously,
the student movement takes aim at the
CPE, or the "First Employment Contract,"
that was passed earlier this year. De Vil-
lepin and his right-wing allies sold it as a
way to reduce unemployment among the
under-26 crowd, but the Left criticized it
as a significant erosion of workers' rights.
De Villepin, who coincidentally is running
for President next year, has taken a hard
line. The CPE works, he says, and no mod-

ifications should be made. The socialists
have taken an equally hard line: They will
accept nothing less than the full retraction
of the law.
At the center of the argument is that the
CPE allows employers to fire their young
workers for no reason during a two-year "try-
out period."From an American perspective, it
might be difficult to understand the outrage.
We take for granted that we're not going to
have job security. If you get fired, there's real-
ly not much you can do about it. C'est la vie.
But in France, the protection of the
worker against capitalistic exploitation has
fared better than in the United States. The
French have a working social democracy
and are in the enviable position of having
a 35-hour workweek, not to mention the
generous vacation time. The CPE is seen as
the first step in dismantling their beloved
system.
The system may be on the verge of rupture
anyway. Unemployment is high, and members
of the next generation are going to be poorer
than their parents. The big, happy, socialist
pie is being stretched too thin, but instead of
seeking reform, French students are cling-
ing fearfully to their old ways. The turmoil
in France that I'm witnessing right now is not
just about one law hastily rushed through Par-
liament. The national dialogue is really about
whether France is once again going be the
exception to the rule, or if the Fifth Republic
will simply become another cog in the global-
ized economy.
Of course, this is also a partisan battle at
heart. The left wants to undermine the power
of de Villepin before the '07 elections. As it
stands, both sides are so obstinate that I seri-
ously question whether I'll ever go back to the
classes I enrolled in. In the meantime, I can
only marvel at how French public transporta-
tion works better than ours even when it's on
strike - and drink pastis.
Perrine is an LSA junior. He is currently
studying abroad in France.

Making
Michigan
study
CHRISTOPHER ZBROZEK
BORI V. TIlL USA.
ack when I
started high
school,
the seniors didn't
really have to do
anything. My sub-
urban Detroit dis-
trict required them
to take English,
government and
maybe one other
class. You could be home before lunch if
you felt like it.
The school district ended that policy
before my class got anywhere near gradu-
ation, much to our annoyance. As the
strict new high school curriculum stan-
dards Gov. Jennifer Granholm signed into
law last week take effect, the senior year
blow-off schedule will become as much
a part of Michigan's past as our global
dominance in auto manufacturing.
Respectable opinion throughout the state
has been strongly behind the new stan-
dards, which include requirements that high
school students take at least three and a half
years of math, three years of science and
even two years of a foreign language if they
hope to graduate. A Detroit News editorial
gushed, "Everyone will have to step up and
work harder. And if they do, Michigan will
be able to boast of having the highly skilled
work force that 21st-century employers
demand." Granholm herself boasted, "This
new curriculum will help give Michigan
the best-educated workforce in the nation
and bring new jobs and new investment to
our state."
Maybe I'm just one of those, you know,
elitists at that stuck-up school in Ann
Arbor, but how is requiring high school
students to actually take classes going to
give Michigan the nation's best-educated
workforce?
Don't get me wrong. Michigan's econo-
my certainly stands to benefit from getting
our high-school students to work harder.
We keep hearing, after all, the vaguely
racialized threats that India and China
are going to eat America alive unless
American kids study more. Michigan's
lagging manufacturing sector makes the
issue of U.S. competitiveness particularly
salient in this state.
The new curriculum standards will help
fight at least one nasty trend in education.
A study released last week by the nonpar-
tisan Center on Educational Policy found
that since the passage of the No Child Left
Behind act, 71 percent of the nation's school
districts have cut back on other subjects to
teach more reading and math - the only
subjects covered by the tests that NCLB
mandates. The New York Times reported
that to boost their test scores, some schools
are requiring students who test poorly to
take extra periods of math and reading at
the exclusion of all other subjects. I can't
think of a single better way to kill any
interests kids have and encourage them to
drop out than to send them the message that
all school really is about is drilling for stan-
dardized tests. With Michigan's new cur-
riculum requiring courses in a wide range
of subjects, this atrocious trend should be
curtailed in the state.
The fact is, though, that just getting
high school students to work harder won't
save Michigan overnight. (Even if it
could, the requirements will first apply to
students who graduate in 2011, by which
time General Motors or Ford might not

even be around anymore.) If Granholm
is intent on Michigan's having the "best-
educated workforce in the nation," she
- or her successor - will have to do a
few more things.
For starters, there's getting more peo-
ple to graduate from college, not just
high school. Nolan Finley of The Detroit
News pointed out in a recent column that
Michigan ranks eighth among the states
in high school graduation rates, but 40th
in college attendance. One key obstacle
to boosting that ranking is state lawmak-
ers' unwillingness to pay for higher edu-
cation. Though public universities might
see a 2-percent funding increase this
year, that won't make up for four years
of cuts. When state appropriations drop,
tuition jumps, and more people find col-
lege beyond their means.
But as many an English or sociology
major graduating this term can attest,
simply having a college degree doesn't
necessarily equate to great job prospects.
Though liberal arts students (me includ-
ed) might not like to hear it, Michigan
needs to find ways to steer more students
toward fields where the state has pros-
pects for economic growth. It also needs
to keep more educated young adults in
the state after graduation. One way to
work toward both goals would be offering
targeted student loans to students in tech
fields - and paying them off after gradu-
ation if students take jobs with Michigan
employers.
Without such actions, Michigan's new

0I

0

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

Axe ad misleads men look-
ing to get their game on
TO THE DAILY:
Wanna get your game on? If you read the full-
page Axe Dry deodorant ad in the Daily recently
(04/04/06), you might get the idea that the best
way to "get your game on" is to refer to women
as nameless objects as the ad does: "pretty young
thing," "young beauty," "Latin diva" "leggy red-
head" and even a man's "territory." Sounds like a
good way to get your game killed.
Note to any guys who were inspired by this ad:
Intelligent women on this campus are looking for
men who care more about their GPAs than their
T&As. If you want to "get your game on," pick
up a book.
Note to the Michigan Daily advertising staff:
This is not Details magazine. Please keep your
ads to those that will help us increase (e.g. Kaplan,
Princeton Review) or even decrease (Connor
O'Neill's) our brainpower. Axe the Axe ad!
Sara Konrath
Rackham
Students are too young to
give up on social change
TO THE DAILY:
Emily Beam's April 5 column (Sign up to save
the world, 04/05/2006) presents several valid
points about the need to evaluate oneself, one's
motivations for action and the means by which
one achieves such action.
However, her conclusion,that "it's not our place
to save the world" misses the mark completely.
Beam talks about student initiatives to "save
the world" as if each student group has the
responsibility to fix everything that's wrong with
everyone immediately. In reality, this is impos-
sible, I agree. However, this is not the goal of most
groups with which I am familiar. Instead, by set-
ting and reaching real goals, we can all make the
world a little better - even though volunteering
at a soup kitchen won't solve poverty, it is one of
many things we can do to alleviate its effects.
The point is, it is exactly "our place" to cre-
ate change in the world. As someone very wise
once told me, we are too young to be tired. We
are too young to be disheartened. And we are far
too young to give up. Social change is possible,
but only if we, as students, take responsibility and
get organized.
Jaya Kalra
LSA sophomore
The letter writer is a co-chair of
Stonewall Democrats.
Armed students do not a
I*j.. hi a oit1

faces that a handgun introduced to a student
neighborhood would be any more likely to stop
a crime than be used in one.
Engaging student communities, as groups
like Students Promoting Active Neighborhoods
are doing, is more productive than the Libertar-
ians' attempts at shocking them. Hosting talks
with police and fostering neighborhood watches
doesn't make the headlines, but it does make the
streets safe. All this invites the question: Do the
College Libertarians really care about safety and
crime prevention, or are they just trying to bring
attention to their organization?
Dana Christensen
LSA sophomore
Daniel Ray
LSA junior
The letter writers are members of Students
Promoting Active Neighborhoods.
Affirmative action should
address socio-economics
TO THE DAILY:
I would like to point out something I noticed
in Suhael Momin's column (The paradox of affir-
mative action,;04/03/2006). In his argument for
affirmative action, he rightfully points out that
the playing field is not level and that kids from
rich suburban schools have some advantages
over kids growing up poor schools. I agree, but
I don't see where race enters into this equation.
There are poor children throughout Michigan
who grow up at a disadvantage. By giving
preference only to the black students, affirma-
tive action can act to foster racism and resent-
ment in their white peers. Instead, we should
do away with race-based preference and move
toward helping all students who grow up poor
to have an equal chance at higher education.
Matt Baumgartner
Engineering sophomore
Affirmative action misses
economic realities
TO THE DAILY:
It seems that every article the Daily prints
against the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative
contains the same objections, notably that
affirmative action is necessary to correct ineq-
uities in quality of education due to birthplace,
social class, financial situation of family, etc.
It would make more sense to give this pref-
erential treatment to all students from these
backgrounds, rather than make the generaliza-
tion that all minority students inevitably had
an inferior education. Affirmative action is
reverse discrimination given partial legitimacy

H

Editorial Board Members: Amy Anspach, Andrew Bielak, Kevin Bunkley, Gabrielle DAngelo,
Whitney Dibo, Milly Dick, Sara Eber, Jesse Forester, Mara Gay, Jared Goldberg, Mark Kuehn,
Frank Manley, Kirsty McNamara, Suhael Momin, Rajiv Prabhakar, Katherine Seid, Gavin
Stern, Ben Taylor, Jessica Teng, Rachel Wagner, Jason Yost.

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