Education: Hayseed Genius

At a quick glance, mop-haired Jean Frène, 20, seems to be a French version of Li'l Abner. The ninth of eleven children, he grew up in a dirt-floor stone hut on a hardscrabble farm near the hamlet of Longes (pop. 500), 30 miles south of Lyons. Life was so poor that ten years ago his father went to work in a steel plant, where he earns $100 a month. At 14, Jean quit school to work on the farm, seeing little future beyond hard labor and a draft call to Algeria when he reached 18.

The call came—and what the army discovered...

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