One of the things that makes France so French is the annual philosophy exam that traditionally kicks off the week-long series of tests for the baccalauréat diploma at the end of the lycée (senior high school). While France is a proudly secular state, the questions asked often pose puzzles with ethical aspects that many religions also contemplate. They are usually very broad — some would say impossibly broad — questions, leaving the student to decide how to understand and discuss them in a long essay.
Here are some of the questions the nervous students were given four hours to sweat over today:
Is it absurd to desire the impossible?
Are there questions that no science answers?
What does one gain by exchanging?
Does technical development transform humans?
Does language betray thought?
Does historical objectivity presuppose an impartial historian?
Are 18-year-olds set questions like this in exams in your country? If not, would it be worthwhile to ask them? (Photo: President Nicolas Sarkozy chats with students during a visit to Galilee High School in the Paris suburb of Gennevilliers on 10 June 2009/ Philippe Wojazer)