June 16th is the date of the first examinations for the French students who are sitting the baccalauréat– equivalent of the English A-Levels or the Irish Leaving Certificate – and it all begins, abiding by the tradition, with philosophy. After three years attending “lycée”, the dreaded moment puts an end to it and represents a passport for further education to the successful ones.
Early morning philosophy
In spite of the heavy heat of June, it is not yet time for French teenagers to chill out and enjoy the long days of the early summer. Since last Thursday, the exams of the three “general” courses and the seven technical ones have begun, starting point of endless lines written in blue ink. The writing marathon starts at eight a.m. on the dot, so it is not the right week to oversleep. Furthermore, the exams can be held in any “lycée” of the area, which is not to help keep stress levels low with long commuting, especially knowing you have to be in the facilities thirty minutes in advance.
Four hours of philosophy open the hostilities with either text commentary or the notorious “dissertation” – an eight-page long essay. Introduction, thesis, antithesis, synthesis, conclusion; the years go by, the recipe remains unchanged… So do the authors, from Aristotle to Freud, not to mention Kant, all that looks somewhat dusty. Same story the following day. Again, four hours sitting on school benches, long replaced by anti-ergonomic chairs, this time for history and geography. The former focuses on the 20th century, the latter on Germany, the USA and Japan among others.
ES, L, S – also known as A, B, C[Français]