Druckerman find that the French emphasize the concept of "encadre", a set of behavioral expectations that children must follow. Within this framework, as she repeatedly mentions thoughout the book, children are allowed tremendous freedom. Encadre behavior includes regular meals, politely greeting adults, and going to bed at an early time. Children are also given enormous amounts of unstructured time to learn how to amuse themselves by experiencing boredom.
Children learn encadre behavior not only at home but at school. Druckerman visits her daughter's French preschool only to see a line of two dozen identical paintings lined up on the wall, produced by the kids in art class. They are allowed to do free-form painting in the second year, presumably after developing their painting framework in their first year.
Interestingly enough, many online columnists and commenters are critical of the French education system. One French Guardian columnist admits that
"This is what I could tell you about France's state education with my British glasses on: French schools are medieval dungeons where children from the age of three are subjected to terribly long hours under the unforgiving gaze of instituteurs who make them learn the Marseillaise off by heart. If they fail, they'll be told so in the most undiplomatic terms. Grammar and algebra are all that matters. Creativity and playfulness? Children can learn that at their grandparents', if they are still alive."
The same columnist also states that the strictness of French education provides French children with the groundwork that they need to move on to more creative work.
In March, 2011, the NY Times published an article stating that more than three-fourths of incoming CUNY freshmen needed remedial assistance with basic classes such as reading, writing, and math. In response,
"To bring thousands of students up to speed, those colleges [CUNY colleges] spent about $33 million last year on remediation — twice as much as they did 10 years ago. They are expanding an immersion program that funnels hundreds of students exclusively into remedial classes."
It is difficult for college students to do really creative work, or for college professors to inspire the creative spark needed to bring their students to something higher than rote learning, when much time and energy must be spent teaching basics that students should already have known. A firmer grounding in the basics of math and writing in middle and high school, subjects learned only through constant repetition, would have prepared those students for college, and allowed CUNY to spend the $33 million on other classes, funding special projects, technology enhancement, or even infrastructure repair.