I briefly explained the French Bac a few years ago (yikes! I’ve been doing this blog for more than a year?), and it is that time again. A professor in Em’s school asked the class how baccalaureat was spelled, and none of the kids were 100% sure! Em’s first exam was this week. A four hour written French Lit exam. She is terrified that she has done what they call an hors sujet, the fairly common mistake of misinterpreting the question. In which case, the student gets zero points.
And while that is every French kid’s nightmare, students living in rural France had an even bigger nightmare this year; getting to the exam on time. In cities, there are enough bac candidates, that kids generally take the exam at their own school. In rural areas, several villages may be grouped together, with kids having to travel an hour or more, relying on trains, to get to their exams on time. The bac officially began this Monday at 8h30 with the 4 hour Philosophy exam, arguably the most important exam in the bunch. And this Monday, the SNCF decided to “respect” their on-going strike, keeping rail service at a minimum and disrespecting students in need, giving rather stressed out teens something more to worry about. Of course, the more affluent families could afford to put their kids in a hotel near the testing center the night before the exam, or a parent could take the morning off work to drive the student. The ones that were really hurt were the poorest students. Which means, the union leaders of France knowingly sacrificed the future of all the hardship students in an entire class. These are presumably the very people the unions were created by and for. It is infuriating!
Perhaps as a reaction to the stress, the students have created a bit of humour for the nation, with their reaction to the Literature exam, that featured Victor Hugo’s poem, Crépuscule. “Victor Hugo, if I see you on the street, you’re a dead man.” one of them tweeted, and another put out a reminder that Hugo was under the influence of a particularly illegal substance when writing the poem, leaving the tweeter mdr (mort de rire, aka dying of laughter). Hugo himself would have loved the controversy, since he referred to the bac as “stupide” in “Les Misérables” and thought the authors that students were forced to study were all old and irrelevant. Not sure if he’d enjoy knowing that he is now a social media superstar, trending on Twitter.
L’étang mystérieux, suaire aux blanches moires,
Frisonne; au fond du bois la clairière apparaît ;
Les arbres sont profonds et les branches sont noires ;
Avez-vous vu Vénus à travers la forêt ?
Avez-vous vu Vénus au sommet des collines ?
Vous qui passez dans l’ombre, êtes-vous des amants ?
Les sentiers bruns sont pleins de blanches mousselines;
L’herbe s’éveille et parle aux sépulcres dormants.
Que dit-il, le brin d’herbe ? et que répond la tombe ?
Aimez, vous qui vivez ! on a froid sous les ifs.
Lèvre, cherche la bouche ! aimez-vous ! la nuit tombe;
Soyez heureux pendant que nous sommes pensifs.
Dieu veut qu’on ait aimé. Vivez ! faites envie,
O couples qui passez sous le vert coudrier.
Tout ce que dans la tombe, en sortant de la vie,
On emporta d’amour, on l’emploie à prier.
Les mortes d’aujourd’hui furent jadis les belles.
Le ver luisant dans l’ombre erre avec son flambeau.
Le vent fait tressaillir, au milieu des javelles,
Le brin d’herbe, et Dieu fait tressaillir le tombeau.
La forme d’un toit noir dessine une chaumière;
On entend dans les prés le pas lourd du faucheur;
L’étoile aux cieux, ainsi qu’une fleur de lumière,
Ouvre et fait rayonner sa splendide fraîcheur.
Aimez-vous ! c’est le mois où les fraises sont mûres.
L’ange du soir rêveur, qui flotte dans les vents,
Mêle, en les emportant sur ses ailes obscures,
Les prières des morts aux baisers des vivants.