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France condemns teacher for educating students about the Holocaust

A history teacher has been suspended in France for spending "too much" class time on teaching the Holocaust.

Here's a classic example of where France goes wrong. A July report condemned Catherine Pederzoli for "lacking distance, neutrality and secularism" and that by spending so much time on the Holocaust she was "brainwashing" her students.

For the past fifteen years, Pederzoli has organized annual trips for students to death camps in Poland and the Czech Republic. The number of students she was allowed to take had been cut in half, prompting her students to hold a protest when French Minister of Education Luc Chatel visited the school. Pederzoli was accused of inciting the protests.

Here's how ridiculous the report was: 

The ministry's report cites that in meeting with investigators, the teacher used the word "Holocaust" 14 times while using the more neutral term "massacre" only twice.

Seriously? She's brainwashing her students because she used an internationally recognized term for the heinous crimes committed against Jews, gypsies, homosexuals, and other "undesirables" by Nazi Germany? It's hard to imagine a more preposterous condemnation.

France's republican tradition means that it doesn't officially recognize differences between demographic groups, and that secularism is the overriding state virtue. But that deliberate non-recognition --"I can't see you!" -- itself leads directly to policies that are often used, intentionally or not, in an anti-Semitic or Islamophobic manner.

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FP Book Club: The End of Arrogance

Bruce Jentleson and Steven Weber's November/December 2008 cover story for FP, "America's Hard Sell," described the collapse of 50 years of U.S. foreign policy assumptions -- that democracy, capitalism, and Western  values were key to peace and prosperity worldwide -- and argued, presciently, that America had to learn to compete in the marketplace of ideas against many other forceful and skeptical players. Now the authors -- Jentleson is a professor of political science at Duke University and Weber the director of the Institute of International Studies at Berkeley -- have expanded their piece into a book for Harvard University Press, due out next week. The End of Arrogance makes a strong case for the end of the hegemony of American ideas in the foreign-policy sphere, examines what a more complex and diverse set of influences could create in terms of a future world order, and offers some important advice on how America can keep up in a more competitive world: "It's when dominance gives way to influence that genuine leadership comes to the fore," the authors say. Check it out.