Sunday, September 8, 2013

Culpable Kids & Cats

There's an expectancy of behaviour, that the French apply to equally, both children and cats. This expectancy ensures that the resulting  creatures, be they child or feline,  are very different from their English counterparts.

In school French children are expected to have all the necessary writing equipment available and to look after them. The school provide no pens, crayons, rulers, glue etc., its all down to the individual. French children get up to sharpen a pencil or borrow a crayon from a friend or get a tissue mid class or mid activity as the need dictates. There is no need to ask permission, only move at designated times or argue over materials, So many problems in the UK classroom can occur when children move... we don't trust them to do something simple, we over structure, even suppress independence. 

At the village school, here in France I was nonplussed at being told, by the class teacher, that  the gendarmes were in the adjoining room with several  of the children. My assumption was that some kind of safety instruction was being undertaken, but it turned out that the gendarmes were verifying  the identity of the children so that they could attend the various summer functions organised by the commune. The children were being held responsible and accountable for themselves and its this  expectancy which is so important. French society, at least in this largely rural department, expects that the children  be responsible for themselves and act responsibly, and so, largely, they do.
cat clipart 14 465x500So to with French cats. these are not the pampered sofa loving, do as they please felines of the UK. The French love their cats, but treat them with  a similar expectancy to that of a dog or horse. If farm cats they are working animals, no different from cows or chickens. And, if domestic, they are expected to respond when called, be loyal to the family, possibly holiday with them and even walk on a lead. Now quite what they do to convince these creatures to do this seems to be down as much to pure expectation as anything; the cat is meant to behave in a social manner and so does. I can't imagine any cat I've known, running to greet  or when called (unless food is involved) and as to cats on holiday or walking on a lead, now that's unbelievable. But all these things your  French feline does as a matter or normality, its expected!

Now I'm sure it could be argued that certain parenting, teaching or animal training could and are applied in Britain, but this is not something that's set down, planned or prepared for. It seems that, expectation is deep in the French psyche. Its not a lack of choice, its more an expectation of  positive choice. Rather like, 'If your think something will happen it probably will...', there is cultural affirmation that it should happen and so it usually does.
Maybe its simply that our Gaelic neighbours, have an expectation  that the cup should be half full, rather than assumption that it might be half empty. Well 'a cat can look at a queen', they say and the French did have a nifty way of getting rid of their queens and kings. Perhaps its 'LaRepublique...peu-etre!