the French are less sure of themselves, says a study

In the land of lights and Encyclopedias, is our general knowledge declining?

The Cultural Analysis G the elephant questioned itself on the occasion of its tenth anniversary and published this Thursday an Ifop study carried out via the internet, from November 10 to 14, with a representative sample of a thousand French people (1,001 people ). There is no test or knowledge test, but there are many questions about how everyone feels about it. These responses are often put into perspective compared to previous surveys conducted in 2012 and 2017.

Here are five lessons that comment on what we can learn here

study titled ‘General culture: the French decline?’

This knowledge hierarchy remains “relatively traditional”

Let’s start with the definition of this general culture. What skills are referred to here? A list is determined by the polling institute and the magazine, before being submitted to the respondents. Without them being able to suggest any other item, when surprisingly none of them are directly related to politics, for example.

Based on these ten measures, Gautier Jardon, senior researcher at Ifop, explained that “the French have a relatively clear and relatively traditional hierarchy of disciplines that enter the general culture. All things biology, hard science, are easier to cite than disciplines that are more ‘managed’ in sociological language, or that can be considered subcultures, such as rap, street art or comics..” Contemporary art gets almost three-quarters of the opinions, the result, according to the analyst, of a certain institutionalization.

In detail, these results are passed through the sieve of“a rather generational read” : the relatively strong hierarchy marked by traditional disciplines corresponds mainly to the oldest, “and on the contrary, the hierarchy still exists among the youngest but it is smoother, they will be more liberal in their definition of the general culture. Half of those under 35 believe that rap and astrology are part of it“.


“An almost heritage element”, more personal

This is a confirmation of the trend that emerged in 2017: a good level of “G” culture is mainly considered important for “raise your children well” (at 67%, up 6 points). “A real shift” occurred according to Guénaëlle Le Solleu, the co-founder and editor-in-chief of the journal: “We had the impression that culture is almost an element of heritage, in a logic of transmission that we consider more and more important. And on the contrary, the utilitarian part of general culture, whether to understand our world or to succeed in one’s professional life, is back.” The journalist attributes this development to our changing work relationship: “A lower commitment to the world of work means that one is perhaps less committed to exploring topics of general culture. And in a way, everything will be very internalized, for the personal sphere.


– Ifop / The Elephant

A growing feeling, including the relationship with our foreign neighbors

French respondents express a worse opinion of themselves than in two previous studies, in 2017 and 2012.They have the impression of knowing less than before and on a fairly significant scale“, commented Guénaëlle Le Solleu. Half of the people asked therefore consider that the French have less knowledge than fifty years ago and this opinion has increased by 17% in ten years.

Self-esteem by self-rating has also decreased to 10 since 2017. 64% of the French contacted then felt that they had a relatively high level of general culture, where they are now only 58%. Île-de-France is considered better than other territories.

Another negative opinion: almost a third of the population thinks that their level of knowledge is lower than the average for other Western countries. This number has almost doubled since 2012! “Not only do we know less, but we know less than our neighbors” summed up the journalist, when his magazine saw it “a recent sense of downgrade“.

I don’t know if it’s modest. We are not optimistic, listen to the ambient discourse in school or social life”, suggests Guénaëlle Le Solleu. To add to that “Maybe we know more, but more on the surface. It’s true that we didn’t ask this“.


– Ifop. The elephant

Young people are the least confident in their achievements

This disturbing finding about the general culture is particularly striking among young people. They also give themselves the worst marks in this area. The co-founder and editor-in-chief of the review sees this in particular as a result of an surrounding pessimism and repeated discourse on the decline of the level of education, even though young people are a priori better than previously: “It’s a little ironic: while young people both, I think, have access to more knowledge, more information, and we learn a lot in school and in general, they lack confidence. We are in the context of a general depression, we continue to cut the school, with the goal that the rankings are not very good, we hear that the teachers themselves are no longer motivated, with the discourse on the level of the students that is decreasing, the baccalaureate is no longer useful“. Without forgetting the questioning of sources related to the spread of fake news or fake news.

But despite the complexities they may have, Guénaëlle Le Solleu emphasizes the shame they confess: “61% of under-25s already feel a lack of general culture in a professional context. It seems really big! While the total of the French is 37%. Young people are not at all in claiming their knowledge, in pride. And what is surprising is that even in a friendly or family setting, where one can say that the stakes are not very important, young people feel more shame than the average French.“.

Academics, teachers, and books remain top favorites to fuel its “G” culture

The top three of the best sources that are said to feed one’s knowledge remain very classic: researchers and professors predominate at almost 80%, followed by nothing by books. Online encyclopedias are said to be reliable, even if their credit is less for detail. Public authorities appear below the 50% mark, as, still behind, journalists, then content creators and influencers, at only 11%.

It shows that in the end, despite all the chaos, questioning and fake news, a baseline remains“, studied the journalist, who confessed his (good) surprise: “We expected a lot of confidence from young people in this new content that they consult a lot, but they know that they are sponsored, they know what the product placement is and not everything is credible. . Education is done and the youth are not fooled“.


– Ifop. The elephant

To listen:

Without the courage to askthe general cultural program of French Culture

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