By Andy Ostmeyer
Why do Americans do it?
Why do they joke that Euro Disney can't shoot off fireworks for fear that the French will surrender? Why has everyone from Mark Twain to Marge Simpson gotten in on bashing America's oldest ally, the country that gave the United States the Statue of Liberty and Alexis de Tocqueville's "Democracy in America"?
On Oct. 6, some Americans will get their chance to learn more. That's when American-born author Harriet Welty Rochefort, who has lived in France for 35 years, will address stereotypes with a talk at Missouri Southern State University titled "France Bashing: What's Behind it?"
It is one of more than 60 events scheduled this fall as part of the France semester at Missouri Southern. The lineup includes classes on French cooking, French film festivals, lectures on the French Revolution and seminars on doing business in France.
Chad Stebbins, director of the school's Institute of International Studies, said there also will be a concert by noJazz on Sept. 19.
"Apparently, this group is taking Europe by storm," he said.
Themed semesters are part of Southern's international mission, he said, and each fall a different country is chosen as the focus.
Stebbins said a number of faculty members have for years been wanting a France semester, and this fall they will integrate French themes, history and art into classes.
"We try to bring the world to the campus," Stebbins said.
Even the industrial engineering department got into the act by creating a 15-foot model of the Eiffel Tower that was moved Thursday to the oval on campus. It eventually will be lighted like the 968-foot original.
Southern also is working with its two partner universities and will have about 10 students from France on campus this fall. Many Southern students already have traveled to France this summer or in previous years as part of the school's international mission.
Brenda Kilby said students have a different perspective when they return. For the past six years, she has organized and led the International Media Seminar, taking students to France to meet French journalists and American journalists working in France. They tour French newspapers and television stations, and learn about the differences between the way journalism is practiced in France and the United States.
Joe Mulia, 22, of Rolla, a third-semester senior at Southern, spent his junior year studying in France at the University of Orleans. This summer, he spent three weeks in Paris, with a trip to Normandy on the anniversary of D-Day.
The first trip, he said, was taken to broaden his horizons. The second came about after he and John Concrace, a sophomore from Lamar, were awarded the McCaleb Initiative for Peace award. The two studied racial tensions that erupted in France last year among Islamic youths.
Mulia said he was "drawn to Southern, and I picked it over the University of Missouri" because of the ease of traveling abroad that has evolved because of the school's international mission.
Mulia said he originally was considering a career in diplomacy but believes he now wants to work for a non-governmental organization.
"As an American, I think we are closed off to a lot of what happens in the outside world," Mulia said.
He said he didn't experience any deep reserve of anti-Americanism on his trips, but found that many French associate Americans with the policies of government officials.
"In Normandy, at least, every house had an American flag," Mulia said. "They seemed entirely warm and welcoming."
Andy Ostmeyer is the assistant metro editor for The Joplin Globe.
Some scheduled events
French Film Festival, Sept. 5.
Restaurants and fast food in France, Sept. 12.
Concert by noJazz, Sept. 19.
Corporate rules and working habits in France, Oct. 5.
Doing business in France, Oct. 5.
Perspectives on health care in France, Oct. 11.
The significance of the French Revolution, Nov. 2.
By Andy Ostmeyer