The French Philosophy of Education

The French talk about education. They don't talk about raising kids. And one of the things that the French believe you teach children is how to eat.
  • Transcript


Pamela Druckerman: I got interested is this topic sort of the way you go broke, very slowly and then all at once.  I never thought French parenting was anything special or that it was a thing at all.  It wasn't one of the things I was supposed to admire about France the way everyone talks about French wine and French fashion and French cheese.  

So it wasn’t until my own child was about 18 months old that I . . . the accumulation of observations kind of crystallized at this moment when I was in a restaurant and I realized that it was only my daughter who was throwing food and running around the restaurant and whining and just generally having a miserable time, and we were the only parents, my partner and I, having a terrible time, that the other parents in the restaurant, the French parents, were talking nicely with their kids.  Their kids were sitting in their chairs.  They weren't running around the restaurant.  They were eating all kinds of food, whereas my daughter was confined to sort of - she was eating pasta and baguettes and that kind of thing.

And then I started to look around at some of the scientific literature that's out there out of universities like Princeton and the University of Texas, which American social scientists have compared French and American mothers.  And it turns that - I don't know if this is a heartening statistic, but - French mothers find parenting less unpleasant than American mothers do, which is already a start.

The French talk about education, the education of their children.  They don't talk about raising kids.  They talk about education.  And that has nothing to do with school.  It’s this kind of broad description of how you raise children and what you teach them.  And one of the things that the French believe you teach children is how to eat.  They don't think kids are - you know, they think of course kids are born fussy.  You know, adults also don't like unfamiliar foods, necessarily.  It takes awhile to get used to them.  So parents think it’s their job to get kids used to all different food and that's through re-proposing them.

When I tell French parents that I know lots of American kids who will eat only pasta or only white rice, they can't believe it.  I mean, they can understand how the kid left to his own devices might do that, but they can't imagine that parents would allow that to happen.  They think you educate your child in how to eat well and how to enjoy different tastes and that it’s not done in a militaristic way, ideally.  It’s done by introducing food as one of life’s great pleasures and even artichokes is one of life’s great pleasures, or whatever the food might be.

Directed / Produced by
Jonathan Fowler & Elizabeth Rodd