As we begin to debate national education standards here in the United States, it's worth reminding ourselves of the truly high standards foreign nations hold their students to. I've already written about the Finnish national curriculum. Now check out these sample questions from the French baccalaureate exam, which students begin taking today. Bonne chance!

For the Literature stream:

1) Does objectivity in history suppose impartiality in the historian? 2) Does language betray thought?

For the Science stream:

1) Is it absurd to desire the impossible? 2) Are there questions which no science can answer?

Okay, so there is no country quite as philosophique -- and, at times, absurd -- as France. And to be fair, Le Bac is a college entrance exam, not a high school graduation exam. Still, the majority of French high school students sit for the test. Could you ever imagine the SAT or ACT asking students to write an essay on such complex, intellectual topics? Matt Yglesias spent a semester studying in France as a high school student. He tells me via instant message: "It was hard. Even their English class seemed hard." And Matt, as you know, is really, really smart.

--Dana Goldstein

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