I get this one all the time: do French people really think Americans are rude?
France is a country with a long history of other countries trying to invade and destroy it. Whether is feuding with the English, or getting occupied by Nazis, the French are accustomed to foreigners being...uncivil. So imagine you're French, and some American tourists come to your beloved capital city - the city of love and lights, Paris. As they walk through your streets, streets filled with life, culture, history, and art, they walk up to you and ask you (in English), "Where is the Eiffel Tower?" As a French person, you would probably be alarmed on two counts. First, these Americans just expect you to speak English, even though they are in your country, where the language is French. Second, they've just butchered the name of a landmark - in French it isn't "The Eiffel Tower" it's "La Tour Eiffel". So to answer the question, no, not all French people think Americans are rude. I've had plenty of very friendly interactions with French people, and with Parisians in particular. But I try to speak the local language as well as I can and I try to show respect for the local landmarks. Once you do that, France opens up to you; it's a country that loves to share its riches with you.
What are the benefits of studying different religions?
Religion is a fundamental aspect of being a human being. Even if you don't have a religion, that lack of identifying with a religion is still something fundamental about you. Religions are connected to language, culture, history, government, war...but they're also profoundly personal. What someone believes about why we are here, whether or not there is a God, what it means to live a good life - the answers to these questions deeply impact each individual person. A person's religion (or lack thereof) is part of their story, part of who they are and how they got to where they are. Knowing the basics of different religions and why religion matters gives you an ability to connect to other people, even across differences in culture or language or history, religion offers an avenue of connection and understanding. Knowing about what someone believes is an act of respect towards that other person. Learning about how other people think about life and God can also transform you. Your own beliefs and thoughts can grow from encountering the beliefs and thoughts of others.
Why does studying philosophy matter?
Most subjects focus primarily on teaching students what to think. In history you learn about various events or historical movements. In math you learn formulas and equations. In literature you read poetry and prose and ponder what the authors meant. Philosophy is different. In philosophy you don't just learn what to think about a certain subject, you learn how to think your way through all the subjects. If you read Plato's Republic, you'll know that Plato thought that education was something fundamental that a nation should provide to its citizens. If you read Descartes, you'll know that mathematics deeply influenced his notions of God. Simone Weil wrote about human rights during the Second World War, arguing that it was the responsibility of criminals to recognize a person's rights, rather than the responsibility of the victim to assert that they have rights. Simone de Beauvoir wrote about women's rights. The political principles of the Founding Fathers were inspired by the philosophical ideas of John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, and Sir Francis Bacon. Philosophy is in everything. When you study it, you learn that humanity has a longstanding history of questioning and wondering about everything. Studying philosophy gives you the ability to think your way through anything. It forms your mind to recognize reason and truth, and to recognize falsehood as well. Most importantly, philosophy lets you see things more clearly, and makes you truly wise.