BACKGROUND

A nun's findings: French-Canadian kids are different

PETER GZOWSKI July 15 1961
BACKGROUND

A nun's findings: French-Canadian kids are different

PETER GZOWSKI July 15 1961

A nun's findings: French-Canadian kids are different

BACKGROUND

Eighteen months ago, Maclean’s associate editor Sidney Katz reported on a nation-wide survey of English-speaking teenagers in an article called Is Our Youth Equipped to Face the Future? Many of those results were surprising: few of the youngsters were in rebellion against anything; many of them wanted more supervision and less liberty; a high percentage were in favor of such devices as the third degree.

Are these feelings and beliefs completely national? How would Frenchspeaking youngsters compare? Those questions worried a young Quebec nun named Sister Marie de la Merci. Now, Sister Marie has some answers. For a thesis toward a bachelor’s degree from Montreal’s Institut de Pédagogie Familiale, Sister Marie surveyed 300 Quebec teenagers with the same questions used in Katz’s survey. Her results, just compiled, point up a few significant differences between French and English kids. Some of them:

Katz’s survey found that “almost 30% (of the English-speaking teenagers) are in favor of allowing police to search a person or his home without a warrant.” Sister Marie found less than 10%. Almost 50% of English young-

sters said the police are “sometimes” right in using the third degree. Only 18% of the French agreed. But more French youngsters — 74% compared to 58% of the English—would allow wiretapping.

Again, more French kids than English said they thought newspapers and magazines should be allowed to print anything they want as long as it isn’t obscene, libelous or seditious. But more French kids than English—56% compared to 44%—also said the government should prohibit people from making speeches that “contain dangerous ideas with which most people disagree.”

Few teenagers of either group said they thought their own freedom was too limited. But among the French, more than 20% said they were too restricted in some way; among the English. only 10%. Far more of the French youngsters — 45% against 15%—said they were disturbed by the degree of authority that the government exercises over their personal liberty.

On such subjects as the immigration of colored people and Asians into Canada (most were for it), the right to inherit money (ditto), and our increasing national unity (most thought it is in-

creasing), there was little if any difference between the two groups. There was, perhaps naturally, greater concern with religion among the French, 99% of whom were Catholic, and a greater desire for keeping two national languages.

But about war and peace there was considerable disagreement. Nearly half the English-speaking youngsters said they would condone a surprise attack, “since the enemy is planning the same thing.” Only 14% of the French agreed. And where only a quarter of the English thought there was anything they could do personally to prevent another war, 62% of the French thought they could. About half that 62% mentioned prayer, while the rest listed such means as “getting to know other people better.”

Perhaps the most significant differences of all arose in the questions about individuality. Nearly half the English teenagers said they felt the worst thing possible was to be considered an oddball by other teenagers. Only a third of the French agreed. Nearly half the English youngsters said they were upset if their group didn’t approve of them. More than 80% of the French teenagers said they weren’t.

PETER GZOWSKI