|from Godard's Band of Outsiders via google|
...it may well be that the French are only less likely to call themselves happy—and what’s unclear is whether the gloomy or skeptical turns of phrase that they use to describe their states of mind correlate to their actual states of mind. It may be the language of happiness that eludes the French rather than the underlying condition. Unhappiness, after all, often implies the desire for change—in circumstances, or even in oneself—and so dissatisfaction with life despite its material benefits suggests a kind of idealism—of intellectual vision of possibilities beyond the actual—that would, at the very least, match up with even the most superficial or stereotypical view of French culture...
In debates here over teacher evaluation and the testing of student skills, what has been lost is the question of the very substance of education. I have long thought that there is a quiet conspiracy at work to reduce education to training—to generate students who have the skills to get a job rather than the historical perspective or theoretical detachment to criticize authority. It’s a commonplace that knowledge is power, and the emptying-out of classroom substance in favor of abstract and deployable abilities is a terrifyingly surreptitious way of shifting the balance away from the individual. The rumblings from France may be just what the utilitarian faction has in mind to avoid.
From Richard Brody in the New Yorker.