Friday, March 27, 2009

Family Life

Maybe you've heard about 6 milliards d'autres, 6 billion others, the newest project of Yann Arthus-Bertrand? This new work of the photographer and artist who, several years ago, made La terre vue du ciel, The Earth from Above, large-format photographs taken from a helicopter showing beautiful and alarming vistas, was on at the Grand Palais, in Paris, this winter. Beginning in 2003, Arthus-Bertrand interviewed and filmed 6,000 people in 65 different countries. He asked them questions about their lives: family, experiences, sorrows, what made them laugh. And then he put it all together, a portrait of humanity in the world at our moment.

Miss Clavell, the girls' teacher, went up to Paris and saw the show at the Grand Palais. She was inspired. She came straight back down to the Collège des vignes and told the international class that they were going to do their own version. They'd collect the email addresses of all the kids they knew in different countries--from Thailand to Bolivia to Finland to South Africa--ask for a photograph and send them a questionnaire. When it all came back, they'd put on their own display.

G and E caught Miss Clavell's excitement. We spent an evening clicking around on the website, listening to different voices talking about the same things in different ways. (It's a website that makes you think, The Internet: On the Whole A Good Idea.) And we thought of all the people we know in different countries and found their email addresses.

Last week, Miss Clavell led the class in thinking of what questions to ask. School? Parents? Religious education? Music? Someone suggested that there be a question about family life. What kind of family life did the respondent want to have in the future?

G (she told us about it that evening, at the supper table) thought about that for a minute. When she and E were in fifth grade, in America, their teacher did a unit on sex education. It was called Family Life (and we had to sign a permission slip for it). G sat in class the other day and wondered how many schools in the world call their sex education unit Family Life. Would the kids on the other end of the email think that they were being asked what kind of sex life they wanted to have in the future?

So did you say anything? C and I asked.

I decided not to. G shrugged. I mean, it's hard to explain to a French teacher that Americans can't say sex without blushing.

The girls have had sex ed this year at school, and it's not been called Family Life (and there was no permission slip). The first chapter was called Reproduction, and the second, which they're on now, is called Contraception. If asked, they'll tell you what the three most popular forms of birth control are in France today, in order of popularity and efficacy. They have to memorize it for the test.

So did the question make it onto the list? we wanted to know.

Oh, yeah, said G. I guess anybody who thinks it's talking about sex will just assume that the questionnaire came from a French school, and the French are like that.

Indeed. I hope I get to see the responses.

1 comment:

  1. What an inspirational teacher they must have.