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SCHOOL WORK: Barbara Lefebvre, right, and Eve Bonnivar, authors of Eleves sous Influence

Listening to these kids talk, an American might be tempted to think they attended some Middle Eastern madrasah or had been reading Noam Chomsky. "Sometimes you get the impression the Americans want to be masters of the planet, and that they're only in Iraq for the oil," says Constance Pluviaud, 17, before class last week. "Her friend Julien Cothenet, 18, chimes in: "They don't have the right to decide for the whole world on the basis of sheer power." Yet these are French students at the prestigious Lycée Chaptal, a secondary school in Paris that counts Alexandre Dumas junior among...