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French history, or at least history teaching in France


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#1 Larry the Leit

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Posted 07 August 2013 - 09:01 PM

Today whilst touring with my band, I got into conversation with an intelligent French tour support worker. He's got a fairly technical role, and speaks five languages fluently and I'd guess is 43-44.

I asked him about the area in Northern France where three of my ancestors fell during the First World War hoping for a few tips on where to go and what to see when I eventually visit.

Several times he interrupted me to correct me and suggest it was the Second World War, and it was only when I sat him down and made him trawl through the casualty statistics on Wikipedia that he accepted that Britain had been involved, even then he asked for confirmation of which side Britain fought for!!

We then had a long conversation about war memorials in British villages, PALS, the Somme, Haig, about the impact on my family where 3 out of 4 brothers died within weeks etc etc.

I remain stunned that he had no idea about the role that the British, the Irish, the Anzacs etc played in what is a catastrophic conflict that is only just out of living memory. He was equally as stunned.

What the hell do they teach them in French schools?
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#2 l'angelo mysterioso

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Posted 07 August 2013 - 09:06 PM

Works both ways
How many people in the uk have heard if verdun?

We regularly hear about the french being 'surrender monkeys' yet how many have heard of the free french?
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#3 Larry the Leit

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Posted 07 August 2013 - 09:08 PM

Well I have, and I dropped history at 13.

I do know that France was involved in the first world though Frank.
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#4 l'angelo mysterioso

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Posted 07 August 2013 - 09:14 PM

Well I have, and I dropped history at 13.

I do know that France was involved in the first world though Frank.

Well a lot if it was fought in France and there are visible signs of the uk's involvement in France, but by no means everywhere

I'm interested in history and have read a lot about all sorts of aspects of it
But a lot of people aren't and what children are taught in schools is quite limited
It does seem odd I agree but it doesn't surprise me
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#5 JohnM

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Posted 07 August 2013 - 09:23 PM

I'll get back on this once I have spoken to my French mate in Vichy who has put his two kids through the French system.

If anyone gets the chance to go to Verdun, take it. If you don't cry, you are inhuman.

#6 Larry the Leit

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Posted 07 August 2013 - 09:26 PM

I'll get back on this once I have spoken to my French mate in Vichy who has put his two kids through the French system.

If anyone gets the chance to go to Verdun, take it. If you don't cry, you are inhuman.


I'm not generally an emotional person but WWI has always resonated with me.

I'll be interested in your mate's feedback. My contact grew up near Albi.
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#7 Futtocks

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Posted 08 August 2013 - 08:43 AM

Hmm, I gave up history at 13 (the teacher refused to let me take the subject), but I do remember a portion of David Niven's semi-reliable autobiography when he is returning to England through France as WWII was starting. He overhears the French passengers in his train grumbling that the English won't help them, "just like last time".

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#8 tim2

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Posted 08 August 2013 - 10:18 AM

I am learning French at the moment and my teacher told me that her grandmother used to hide Jews in the basement of the bakery to help them escape through the occupation. She had a very close call when someone who had heard noises grassed them up to the police and therefore the Germans. Fortunately someone overheard this and tipped them off so they could move the people otherwise the family would have been history. The Germans found some bits of bread and biscuit in the cellar so they were always under scrutiny after that.

The idea that the French were "surrender monkeys" is insulting. Very insulting, in fact. Sure, there were collaborators and also people who just kept their heads down to survive, but don't we think that would have been the case here after a German invasion?

I think WW1 is a key part of our history in many respects in terms of its impact and how it changed Europe - your could argue that WW2 in Europe was simply an extension of the issues never really resolved at the end of WW1.

Arguing with the Germans, French, Italians and so on in a parliament, albeit not an ideal one, is a darn sight better than fighting them in a mudbath for four years, or turning each others' cities into fireballs. Young people need to understand that, rather than just hearing how awful the EU is.
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#9 l'angelo mysterioso

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Posted 08 August 2013 - 11:22 AM

I am learning French at the moment and my teacher told me that her grandmother used to hide Jews in the basement of the bakery to help them escape through the occupation. She had a very close call when someone who had heard noises grassed them up to the police and therefore the Germans. Fortunately someone overheard this and tipped them off so they could move the people otherwise the family would have been history. The Germans found some bits of bread and biscuit in the cellar so they were always under scrutiny after that.

The idea that the French were "surrender monkeys" is insulting. Very insulting, in fact. Sure, there were collaborators and also people who just kept their heads down to survive, but don't we think that would have been the case here after a German invasion?

I think WW1 is a key part of our history in many respects in terms of its impact and how it changed Europe - your could argue that WW2 in Europe was simply an extension of the issues never really resolved at the end of WW1.

Arguing with the Germans, French, Italians and so on in a parliament, albeit not an ideal one, is a darn sight better than fighting them in a mudbath for four years, or turning each others' cities into fireballs. Young people need to understand that, rather than just hearing how awful the EU is.

Yes
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#10 Bob8

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Posted 08 August 2013 - 11:34 AM

The surrender monkeys tag was coined at the time when French troops were serving alongside US troops in Afghanistan and the the person who coined the term was not.

 

Regarding misteaching, I think Britain is pretty good at this.  Certainly, many in the USA were surprised that the UK version of the American War of Independence was close to their own.  That said, there were amused that we had not been taught about how the USA comfortably defended itself against Britain in 1812.

 

In 1812, the USA tried to invade Canada and got nowhere.  Post-Napoleon, the British joined the Canadians and burnt down the Whitehouse.  The American forces won their first major battle at New Orleans, by which point the treaty had already been signed.  When put to them like this, some would wonder if they might have been taught a misleading version of history.


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#11 ckn

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Posted 08 August 2013 - 12:45 PM

But for my granddad teaching me about the Eastern European fronts and the Japan/China part of World War 2 I'm not sure I'd have learned much as a youngster about these areas.  Certainly going by what we were taught at school you'd have thought that the furthest east the war went was Poland and even then that was a fuzzy thing marked as the "eastern front" that just allowed us to come into the war to defend them.  If you look at how many civilians died in the Soviet Union, China, Poland, Indonesia and Yugoslavia during that time then you'd think that the battle for western and central Europe was just a minor tiff in comparison.

 

We certainly didn't get taught things like Poland losing over 16% of its population during the war with a vastly disproportionate number of them being Jewish.  The horror stories my granddad told me were quite difficult to validate until I got older and was able to learn from wider sources.


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#12 Futtocks

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Posted 08 August 2013 - 01:05 PM

An acquaintance of mine edited a book called The Russian Version of the Second World War, which is an interesting taste of what Soviet schoolchildren were taught about WW2.


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#13 tim2

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Posted 08 August 2013 - 01:09 PM

Look up the Battle of Stalingrad (now Volgograd) on Wikipedia if you want a taste of what the Eastern front was like.

Somewhere between 1.25 and 1.75 million people died during, or as a result of, the siege, the fighting and the post-battle effects. This included death marches and labour camps for German POWs.

"Out of the nearly 110,000 German prisoners captured in Stalingrad, only about 6,000 ever returned. Already weakened by disease, starvation and lack of medical care during the encirclement, they were sent on death marches (75,000 survivors died within 3 months of capture) to prisoner camps and later to labour camps all over the Soviet Union."

Over 1 million Red Army soldiers were killed or died in the struggle.

It hardly seems possible, but it happened.
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#14 Tiny Tim

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Posted 08 August 2013 - 02:32 PM

Look up the Battle of Stalingrad (now Volgograd) on Wikipedia if you want a taste of what the Eastern front was like.

Somewhere between 1.25 and 1.75 million people died during, or as a result of, the siege, the fighting and the post-battle effects. This included death marches and labour camps for German POWs.

"Out of the nearly 110,000 German prisoners captured in Stalingrad, only about 6,000 ever returned. Already weakened by disease, starvation and lack of medical care during the encirclement, they were sent on death marches (75,000 survivors died within 3 months of capture) to prisoner camps and later to labour camps all over the Soviet Union."

Over 1 million Red Army soldiers were killed or died in the struggle.

It hardly seems possible, but it happened.

 

I was channel flicking a couple of nights ago and came across a documentary about this. It was compelling viewing and certainly helped fill in some serious gaps in my knowledge.


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#15 marklaspalmas

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Posted 08 August 2013 - 03:15 PM

History's wasted on kids. The vast majority of us are just not interested in the past when we're young.

 

I was bored by my school lessons as I had so few reference points*. Now Im fascinated, and would gladly pay good money to have the same teachers give me the same classes I was bored by.

 

*eg

 

Teacher: "The Romans invaded Britain in 55BC".

 

Me (to myself): "The Romans?? Flook me, one city conquered our whole country? Why did they choose us? That's a bit random. What about Milan and Juventus, where did they conquer? We must have been c rap. Etc."



#16 Futtocks

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Posted 08 August 2013 - 03:27 PM

History's wasted on kids. The vast majority of us are just not interested in the past when we're young.

 

I was bored by my school lessons as I had so few reference points*. Now Im fascinated, and would gladly pay good money to have the same teachers give me the same classes I was bored by.

I would certainly be more interested by history lessons as an adult. Although not with one particular teacher, who's still at the same school today and who is still the most loathed member of staff among what is now my niece's generation. She's got good taste. ;) 


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#17 WearyRhino

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Posted 09 August 2013 - 07:43 AM

The idea that the French were "surrender monkeys" is insulting. Very insulting, in fact. Sure, there were collaborators and also people who just kept their heads down to survive, but don't we think that would have been the case here after a German invasion?


Which is, indeed, exactly how it was in the occupied Channel Islands.

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#18 l'angelo mysterioso

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Posted 09 August 2013 - 07:57 AM

Look up the Battle of Stalingrad (now Volgograd) on Wikipedia if you want a taste of what the Eastern front was like.

Somewhere between 1.25 and 1.75 million people died during, or as a result of, the siege, the fighting and the post-battle effects. This included death marches and labour camps for German POWs.

"Out of the nearly 110,000 German prisoners captured in Stalingrad, only about 6,000 ever returned. Already weakened by disease, starvation and lack of medical care during the encirclement, they were sent on death marches (75,000 survivors died within 3 months of capture) to prisoner camps and later to labour camps all over the Soviet Union."

Over 1 million Red Army soldiers were killed or died in the struggle.

It hardly seems possible, but it happened.

anthony beevor's book on stalingrad is superb


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#19 Bleep1673

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Posted 09 August 2013 - 09:24 AM

One of the reasons it was called a WORLD WAR was the various theatres where battles were fought, I was surprised to find out about the African battles, mainly fought because of Germanys colonies there, we also have to remember that the Italians & Japanese also fought on our side in their own various areas, and that South Africa was seriously divided between the English sorry, British supporters & the Afrikaaners, who supported the Axis countries because they were promised independence if they won.

And it all started because of Serbian Seperatism.
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#20 gingerjon

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Posted 09 August 2013 - 09:27 AM

Which is, indeed, exactly how it was in the occupied Channel Islands.

 

Indeed.

 

As an aside, when we were in the Caribbean (family people lived there, we stayed a couple of times) we visited the national museum in Antigua.  Its version of its people's history would, I suspect, be unrecognisable to most Brits - especially their take on how hard they had to work to get their claims for independence taken seriously.


Edited by gingerjon, 09 August 2013 - 09:27 AM.

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