The difficulties of teachers in the teaching of secularism

Sheets to talk about secularism, in a class in Carquefou (Loire-Atlantique), November 2, 2020. SEBASTIEN SALOM-GOMIS / AFP

The day after Samuel Paty’s death on October 16, 2020, all eyes turned to the school to try to understand the tragedy. With several questions: are the students intellectually equipped to understand what secularism is? Are teachers well trained to deal with this topic in class? Does the school play its role in the transmission of the values ​​of the Republic? A year later, they still resonate, revealing the fractures of a teaching world which – beyond the myth of the black Hussars united behind a republican catechism – has never really been incorporated on this subject.

According to an IFOP survey, carried out for the education observatory of the Jean Jaurès Foundation, disseminated at the start of the year, teachers have a “More minimalist” of the principle of secularism than the rest of the population, and this is even more the case among those under 30: they are “Significantly more numerous” to consider that secularism amounts to putting religions on an equal footing (32%, against 18% for all teachers), in a vision, writes the observatory, ” opened “, see “Inclusive”, “which seems very close to the models of multicultural Anglo-Saxon society”. A vision far removed from that of their supervising minister, Jean-Michel Blanquer.

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On the specific issue of wearing religious symbols, again according to the Jean Jaurès Foundation, more teachers (92%) than the general population (85%) support the 2004 law banning the veil at school, but teachers young teachers appear to be behind (86%). No doubt they cannot ignore that their students, today’s high school students, are making new demands on this subject: at least one in two young people (52%), according to an unpublished photograph offered by the International League against Racism and anti-Semitism in the spring, is said to be in favor of the wearing of religious symbols (veil, kippah) in public high schools – ie double the adult population (25%). “Some teachers believe that they do not have to hurt their students”, analysis Iannis Roder, director of the education observatory of the Jean Jaurès Foundation. “They consider that they must take their sensitivity into account, that it is a necessary step in class. They partly forget the emancipatory role of the school ”, deplores the one who is also a college teacher in Seine-Saint-Denis.

Avoid incidents

Question of generation, too? Jeanne (this teacher requested anonymity) is not far from thinking so. In a high school at the Créteil academy where the young woman taught French for three months as a contract worker, she was marked by the “Endless debates” in the teachers’ room and “Union tensions” about the clothes of two of his students – moreover the “Best”. “They wore a loose, light gray dress, took off their veils when they arrived and, for me, posed no problem. ”

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