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Josée Boileau August 15, 2012
Original French Text: http://www.ledevoir.com/politique/elections-2012/356810/elections-jeunesse-doree
François Legault confuses everything: youth and productivity, the good life and the dropout rate, education and self-realization, the practices of a society and its values … And from this mixture comes out a Quebec without future, but mostly without a baring in reality.
What exactly was denouncing the leader of the Coalition avenir Québec, François Legault, on Monday when a citizen from Lambton lamented that young people cared only about the good life? This remains unclear.
He claims to denounce consumer society. But then, he evokes the Asian model? In Japan, Singapore, Korea, the latest useless gadget sells very well, thank you … The immediate satisfaction of wants is common across all developed societies, and an aspiration for all others. And how do we push back against such a society? In leading… the good life! Practicing voluntary simplicity, resisting the commodification of the world, something that requires effort and real self-realization, as the CAQ leader wants… Why then is he so afraid?
It might actually be productivity that obsesses him. But it seems that he confuses productivity with being at the office. The hours that we put in, because like in Asia or in business centers such as London or New York, one needs to be seen in the office at 9 PM in the evening and at 7 AM the next morning.
That is a social practice, not a standard for efficiency, much less a referent for the average worker, particularly female workers - because in the much-celebrated Asia of Mr. Legault, it is the man who spends his life in the office. Women stay at home: someone has to raise the children and wash the shirts of the very busy husband. Is there someone in Quebec that sees this as a model to follow? Let’s instead continue to refine the work-family balance for which Quebec – thanks to the $7/day daycare of Pauline Marois - is a model. Mr. Legault should talk to our friends in Asia.
That young people in our overworked societies refuse to kill themselves at work is an economic asset: the exhaustion of their seniors is costly to business and to the health system. Anyway, they are already overwhelmed. Even in school, they must cope with the demands of the labor market of the twenty-first century: flexibility, versatility, constant availability. And no pension to reward them.
It is also a matter of valuing education, pointed out Legault. He is not wrong about that. The anti-intellectualism, that explains our past, is not dead in Quebec. We need more literature, philosophy, art history …
Oops, no! That is not it either, said the leader of the CAQ. What we need are engineers! Of the kind that India and China produce by the tens of thousands, the kind that makes Asian students from here shine. The super-technician is the foot soldier of the great economic battle of the twenty-first century. It is true that philosophy can (gasp!) lead to red squares…
Still, François Legault is right, the dropout rate in Quebec is disturbing. But it has nothing to do with “our” youth. We come from a society whose elite has long blocked compulsory education, where 50% of French Canadian children dropped out of primary school in the 1940s, where only 14% finished their grade 11 in the early 1960s. That was yesterday, and it leaves marks. The proof is that our role models of success, Guy Laliberté and Celine Dion, are dropouts. And our youth leaves school because they still manage to get hired without a degree. But who blames the employers?
We will not solve anything by saying that our youth are over-consumers, reluctant to put effort, and without values. Let us rather rejoice on the student spring that has shown us otherwise. Have you not seen that the future is here, Mr. Legault?
Translated from the original French by Translating the printemps érable.
*Translating the printemps érable is a volunteer collective attempting to balance the English media’s extremely poor coverage of the student conflict in Québec by translating media that has been published in French into English. These are amateur translations; we have done our best to translate these pieces fairly and coherently, but the final texts may still leave something to be desired. If you find any important errors in any of these texts, we would be very grateful if you would share them with us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please read and distribute these texts in the spirit in which they were intended; that of solidarity and the sharing of information.