“Humanities, Literature and Philosophy”, a new textbook that brings students down

In late antiquity – in fact the 1960s – Bordas introduced high school students to literature with the five volumes of Lagarde & Michard – 2500 pages in all. Convinced that many things and authors were missing, two friends and I concocted the Texts & Contexts collection (Magnard) in the early 1980s, in four volumes, totaling 2,600 pages – plus a philosophy signed André Sénik et alii weighing his weight of issues. Little did we know that Elisabeth Borne would soon become an advisor to Lionel Jospin, rue de Grenelle, that the law would glorify the student constructor of his own knowledge, and that the educational fashion was now on the wane.

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In the end, not even the bone remains. Bordas’ brand new “Cahier d’activites” (1) claims ” building a literary and philosophical culture » and learn to « speak fluently (from the movie) brio by Yvan Attal, we want to make the forgotten culture believe that eloquence can be learned in two months, and the grand oral exam of the Blanquer baccalaureate probably won’t deter the naive) and offers a vision so oriented by the latest speculation in the fashion that one hesitates between laughing at it and being saddened by it. As a courtesy, I interviewed one of the authors of this “Cahier” by email. His responses are italicized below.

Autonomous knowledge building

What is the exact status of this item? † An activity book in no way replaces the textbook, nor the reading of works, nor – obviously – a course developed by professors of literature and philosophy. Its sole purpose is to provide exercises and activities that are intended to be performed independently by the students. she replies. I also said to myself that this is wildly similar to the autonomous construction of one’s own knowledge, at the heart of the Jospin law of 1989. The main thing is based on the student’s goodwill – which is ” We will according to the eternal Rousseauist principles. † A teacher who wants to address this question can start by asking the students to prepare the lesson at home, by doing the exercises on this double page, and then suggest a floor in the classroom, with longer texts, more in-depth analysis ‘ says my interlocutor. But what is it for?

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Not saying too much is, of course, the primary concern of editors. And even as little as possible. So the ” through speech are studied through “The Raven and the Fox”. Curious idea. And to run away, read that it is a fable about the power of flattery – a useful reflection in CP, but no further. La Fontaine’s fable is the brutal illustration of the fact that speech is a game of power, of desires, of domination. Gorgias knew more than the four authors of the booklet. But ” it is a matter of small short exercises, and not at all in-depth analysis of long texts, those are other exercises, where we are convinced that the students train rigorously, as a class, with the help and advice of their teachers. » Do writers really teach in mainstream high schools? One is in Jeanne d’Albret and Sainte-Geneviève, the other in Edgar Quinet, which is not a bad Parisian high school, a third in Monte-Cristo, one of the best-endowed of the new high schools around Marseille, the latter gives lesson to Rambouillet. Do they have any idea how we teach in Les Ulis, in Corbeil-Essonnes, or in Antonin-Artaud – also in Marseille?

god ? Not knowing !

Several pages are devoted to the human-animal relationship. Very good. We have Descartes, La Fontaine, Rousseau, La Mettrie. But not once was the idea suggested that this distinction made it possible to illustrate what emanated from God (man) and what emanated from nature (the animal). god ? I don’t know – even if it’s at the heart of the debate, not the fate of animals that we didn’t care about in the 17th century. That La Fontaine and La Mettrie are infidel libertines does not interest the authors, who have chosen the texts carefully so that the question does not arise: ” The question of God is neither central nor explicit in the excerpts we have chosen, nor essential given the educational objectives we pursue in these pages. Or maybe they’re afraid of hurting young consciences – which ones, for that matter? † We don’t understand what or who you mean.

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Add to that the fact that it says absolutely nothing about the history of literature or that of ideas. It is that ” this contextualization exists in the textbooks and is done in the course by the teacher. We do not doubt its importance in any way. But that is not the purpose of this activity book. But what is his goal? The short snippets are arranged in a uniform way, because all ideas are valid, right? – that’s what the students think. The masters apparently too: thus the “Cahier” gives a voice to these two great minds, Christiane Taubira (presented on the same level as Hugo as ” Politics – except that Victor’s literary glory must reflect on Christiane) and Eric Fassin – who preceded sex problems by Judith Butler, and has since pontificated on the matter. Only Geoffroy de Lagasnerie is missing. † When a teacher reads a newspaper article in progress with his students, he does not analyze the article as he, with precision, analyzes the structure of the argument from an excerpt from the Metaphysical Meditations or from the second preface to the Criticism of pure reasonI think I prefer Kant to Fassin. And as a teacher I do without World

When it is with such a hodgepodge of ideas received by fashion, we would like literary students to hope that they will take the preparatory classes for the Grandes Ecoles (” The ultimate goal is to gradually bring them up to the level required for the baccalaureate and – ultimately – to the level expected in higher education. “), warn them too: it is light years away from what is required of you. Go back to schoolbooks from the 70’s and 80’s. Ah, but I’m undoubtedly an irreducible and unrepentant elitist, while ” our notebook is meant for all students, not just a small part of them “. A good excuse to lower the bar.

So in the meantime boycott this “Cahier”, which has no other interest than the degeneration of what was once a great publishing house, and which is now only a repository of received ideas, illustrated by a handful of Parisian sores. But teachers are not stupid, they know that their students are entitled to real knowledge, and that eloquence is also learned by being silent and taking notes.

(1) Ingrid Benel and Tania Mirsalis (directed by), Humanities Literature Philosophy, Bordas, 127 pages, 9.90.

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