Now With Data

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"Now With Data"

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David Bell offers up some information on France’s alleged ignorance of American history: “Of the roughly 100 French universities and graduate centers in the humanities, fewer than ten presently employ any historians of the United States at all. The principal French center for North American history, CENA, currently has 46 members and associates, of whom less than a third hold full-time faculty appointments. By contrast, the North American Society for French Historical Studies has 886 members, of whom the large majority hold full-time faculty appointments teaching the history of France.”

France’s population, conveniently, is almost exactly one fifth of the United States’ so it’s easy to see that even when you scale up, NASFHS is substantially larger than CENA. On the other hand, I believe CENA is an actual institution (like Harvard’s Center for European Studies) rather than a professional association, so I’m not sure how comparable this is at the end of the day. But, to return to my original point, French higher education and American higher education are so different that it’s hard to know how to generate legitimate comparisons. Generally speaking, though, American higher education is widely regarded as the best in the world along a variety of dimensions, so it shouldn’t be surprising to see that American universities really do cover France substantially better than French universities cover America.

The flipside would be that at the primary and secondary level, French kids seem to receive a pretty strong level of instruction in the English language, whereas American foreign language education is famously weak.

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