devoirsThe French newsmagazine Le Point today has some bad news for those French students who were looking forward to some extra time out in the bracing springtime air, away from the books: the site announced yesterday that it was shutting down – one whole day after it first opened! The clue to what this site was supposed to do is in its very name: fais mes devoirs is French for “do my assignments,” and indeed this was a site set up to take care of the homework of lycéens et collégiens, thus high-school and university students, in exchange for payment of between €5 and €30. (Presumably per assignment; you also get a handy idea of the helpful attitude of this site from the tag-line on its logo, which translates to “You won’t get there . . . we are [already] there!”)

But no, Le Point reports that “the site had provoked criticism from the national Ministry of Education, teachers unions, and parents.” (I wonder why? Come on people, one doesn’t become a successful businessperson and get to own a McMansion without knowing how to delegate!) And then it basically passes on to readers the apologetic message now to be found on the website, which we of course can just go inspect for ourselves. Posted at 18.00 hours yesterday evening (Fri., 6 MAR 2009), the brief note from a “Stéphane,” labeled as the “founder of, is curious in its own right. The original idea of his team of collaborators was a noble one: “to make available an innovative pedagogical tool to Internautes.” (That’s a remarkable French term, perhaps cognate to “astronaut,” referring simply to “people who use the Internet.”) But then at some point – Stéphane does not specify when or how – they realized that “the site runs counter to our own values,” since it “can contribute nothing” to efforts to make “future generations better than present generations” (which, for example, think up schemes for things like earning money by doing students’ homework for them – Stéphane does not write that, that’s my own contribution). And then this: “New technologies should serve to better us and not to assist us.”

A curious postulate, that, Stéphane. So in science class it’s back to the slide rule? Or not even that? What about fingers? Frankly, this farewell note reminds me of the sort of defendants’ statements issued out of those Chinese “reeducation camps” of the 1960s, or the Communist show-trials of the 1930s and 1950s. Just how closely does that French Ministry of Education work together with, say, French military intelligence and their “special” interrogation methods?

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