Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Did education reform cause France to lose WWII?

People, Thomas Sowell says yes! I am not making this up. For realz.

Check it out:

In France between the two World Wars, the teachers' union decided that schools should replace patriotism with internationalism and pacifism. Books that told the story of the heroic defense of French soldiers against the German invaders at Verdun in 1916, despite suffering massive casualties, were replaced by books that spoke impartially about the suffering of all soldiers -- both French and German -- at Verdun. 

Germany invaded France again in 1940, and this time the world was shocked when the French surrendered after just 6 weeks of fighting -- especially since military experts expected France to win. But two decades of undermining French patriotism and morale had done their work.

Tom, I'ma NOT gonna let you finish. You have a PhD in economics from the University of Chicago. You should be deeply ashamed of yourself.

Lack of Ceteris Paribus? Check.

Failure to define/consider a reasonable alternative hypothesis? Check

A complete breakdown of logic and intellectual integrity? Check mate.

Finally to those of you who may object to my title by claiming that France did not lose WWII, I say: HA!


Anonymous said...

thanks for share.

JFM said...

The problem with the original assertion is that it is based on the assumption that France lost the war at private's level ie cowardice while the truth it was lost at general's level.

-It was not the soldiers who scattered the tanks instead of building armored divisions (and the ones built being unwidly and poorly balanced)

-It was not the soldiers who designed tanks whose poor internal layout (that means reduced rate of fire), inferior optics, reduced visibility for the crew and above all lack of radio (no way to coordinate or ask for artillery or air support) made them easy prey to their underarmored and undergunned opponents.

-It was not the soldiers who designed an uniform so cumbersome it made the french infantry virtually unable to attack as soon there was a machine gun in the area.

-It was not the soldiers who ordered the French Army to charge the "torero's muleta" in Central Belgium while letting the Ardennes unprotected, it was not the soldiers who didn't keep a reserve and it was not the soldiers who spent days in chaotic marches and countermarches at a time the encirclement was more virtual than real and could have been easily pierced.

All these bright decisions were taken by generals who were far too old to have been educated by those pacifist and socialist professors.

However it is true that
1) French soldiers didn't show the pugnacity of, say, russian soldiers (actually in the first months russian soldiers surrendered quite easily, it was later, once they discovered what the fate of "untermanchen" would be if Germany were to prevail, they began to fight like devils)

2) Communists tried to undermine the moral and sabotaged the equipment of those were fighting against Stalin's nazi friends.

However even if Sowell is wrong about France in 1940 that does not mean he is wrong about why France lost wars in Indochina and specially in Algeria where victory on the field was voided by France's population lack of will to fight. And the fact he is wrong about France in 1940 does not mean he is wrong (at least at the level of people who elect presidents ie the country's will to fight) when both teachers and Hollywood portray the people who try to blow maternities and cut the hands of gils guilty of leraning to read and write (both examples are real) as freedom fighters and the people who root for them as poor innocent victims of eeeeevil, blood and oil sucking America.

Now, to libels: please erase that stupid, condescending smile of your face and think about your smugness about Sowell and think about people like Chomsky, Ward Churchill or Al Gore.

Anonymous said...

Did the French really surrender? Or was it just an excuse to follow the Facist path they really wanted to go down all along? Of course, since every Frenchman of the era was in the Resistance, that can't possibly be the case.

Michael said...

Let me ad one more to JFM's great list.

It was not the soldier that sunk so many resources into the Maginot Line and prevented France from building its tanks en masse.

Anonymous said...

It is easier to understand the French teacher if one considers the result of WWII for the French. The commenter assumes the war was inevitable but many observers considered the French lining up a coalition against the Germans utter madness. The war cost the French so much only our Civil War comes close to the destruction of the French people suffered (not to mention the Germans). In a democracy, the people of a nation often restrain the vaingloriousness of their warmaking leaders. Beating up on teachers without explanation sees just more thoughtless bashing of educators of the present milieu.

Jeff said...

This is really neither here nor there, but I've always sort of wondered whether France was just exhuasted by the time WWII rolled around, in one way or another. The French Revolution, the subsequent Napoleonic Wars, the Crimean War, the Franco-Prussian War, the Great War...that's a lot of bleeding and dying to do in ~130 years or so.

In the early 1800's, France, under Napoleon, nearly conquered all of Europe. 100 years later, they're getting steamrolled in a matter of weeks by their old nemeses, the Prussians. Something's got to explain that, right? I certainly don't think Thomas Sowell has figured it out, but I'd be curious to know the answer.

Anonymous said...

The key aspect Sowell elides are the facts of demography and economy. France was already suffering declines in birth rates in the late 19th century and importing labor from colonies and immigration programs. Add the sausage mill of the First World War, hosted by the French, and there comes a shortage of economically productive prime and war-age men. Kirk 1969, Huss 1990, it's not a secret or unstudied area.

JFM said...

@Anonymous of 8:18

Actuallu elections in the preceeding years didn't point to the French being tempted by fascism. And most of the very early French resistants or Free French, the ones who joined in June or July 1940 (ie even before the outcome of the Batte of Britain had given a tinty light of hope) came from the far right. Loustauneau-Lacau, colonel de la Roque, colonel Remy were at the very least far right.


Actually the cost of the Maginot line was quite small compared to the French military budget and the line was finished well before France began to rearm

@Anonymous of 10:42

France was demographically exhausted after bowing above its weight in WWI. Add to this poor housing, caused by artificially low rents who had incited the French to have few children. In fact during most of the inter-war period France had negative population growth. But it still makes more sense to fight a crocodile when it si the size of a garden lizard than when it weighs a metric ton, don't you think. And the Communist Party, whose connections granted an influence (many Socialts intellectuals and teachers felt they had to dance at the tune of the so-called Workers' Party) far beyond its electorate has sided with the enemies of France in every single war wince 1917, WWII included (except of course after the attack on Soviet Union)


The difference between Napoleon times and the Franco-Prussin war in 1870 is that demographically and economically. The potato was of little benefit to the wheat ricgh France while it allowed Prussia to greatly expand its population and while Prussia got a first order industry, in France industrial development was hindered by the manufacture system and the elitist spirit it gave to French capitalists: in 1815 the French had the best artillery in the world, in 1879 its obsolete bronze cannons were no match for the steel-built Prussian ones

Jeff said...

Thanks, JFM. Good stuff.

Jacques René Giguère said...

In fact, France had more tanks, better armoured and armed tanks than either Britain or Germany, They were organized in both breaktrough and exploitation divisions. Almost each time French and German armor encountered one another (notably Gembloux and Stomme, as well as amiens where DeGaulle bested Rommel). But with less population and thus less troops, France needed Allies. As soon as Churchill ordered the BEF to break ranks and flee to the sea, winning was impossible.

Jacques René Giguère said...

add to "almost each time" the French won,

Larry Siegel said...

It's just rhetoric. Sowell has a potentially valid point, but he can't possibly prove it, since he can't go back and observe an alternative interwar France that taught patriotism and respect for the military. No historian can test his hypotheses like a chemist can. Give the guy a break, he is writing as a popularizer not a University of Chicago PhD and he is fighting the good fight.

Anonymous said...

This idea that you have to teach a nation to understand it is under military threat is just bulk. Visitors to the Soviet Union were amazed at the pacifist nature of Soviet society in the mid 1930's but when the Germans provided an existential threat to it society, the Soviets got tough real quick. the real result of teaching loads of fear of the enemy is that vainglorious leads have a much easier job of going to war. And its always about who the enemy is. The french people may have decided it was not worth it to subjegate the Algerians. But in my mind it would have been worth it for the French to invade Franco land and remove that monster from power. Were the French privates cowards for not wanting to remove the last vestiges of Franco. Remember that Franco killed two million people after he won the Spanish Civil War with Italian troups.

Anonymous said...

And after Churchill caused France to fall, he sank the submarine Surcouf and fathered Jerry Lewis!