Giving meaning back to teaching professions

minister,

Your appointment is in my eyes, as in the eyes of many, a pleasant surprise. Your academic work, your obligations, your positions are in fact the guarantee of a major renewal at the head of National Education. You have worked on discrimination and emancipation; on many occasions you have had honest, uncompromising and at the same time reassuring words on vital social issues; you embody the struggle for equal rights in what is most fundamental for our future… These are, for teachers, as for all employees of the National Education and Popular Education, strong signs that make us hope for a real renewal.

You come at the head of a battered and damaged institution. An institution that has deeply destabilized hasty reforms carried out without real consultation. The kindergarten, a legacy of Pauline Kergomard whose pedagogical soundness was envied by the whole world, has seen its specific educational objectives, guarantees an authentic welcome to all children in the school world, who are deeply disfigured. Primary school has seen the rain of the most authoritarian and childish orders since, without a doubt, that of François Guizot: reduced to executors responsible for the implementation of standardized procedures, subject to constant evaluation pressure, teachers today wonder if they to train students in responsible citizenship. High school, whose status and goals have never really been elucidated, once again disregarding itself, has simply subjected itself to a few program changes, without questioning the meaning of knowledge and the conditions of its sharing for today’s teenagers. never early. The school has been torn to pieces with the introduction of a rolling exam that jeopardizes both the teachers’ dedication to their task and that of the students to their studies. The unbearable and discriminatory gap between general and technical secondary schools on the one hand and secondary vocational education on the other has become even wider. And the creation of Parcours Sup has condemned high school students as a whole to an arbitrary and unfair orientation, subjecting their personal projects to unknown algorithms. All in all, Minister, inequalities have seriously increased and confidence in the public service of education has been permanently shaken.

But today, Minister, in taking up your duties, I would like to emphasize the great recruitment crisis our country is going through. The job on which, said Ferdinand Buisson, “the promises of the Republic are based”, this job on which our common future largely depends, this job which we like to call “the most beautiful in the world” and which, according to the beautiful statement recently heard in Bhutanese ( “School at the end of the world”), “touches the future”… no longer attracts the younger generations and we risk facing major supervisory problems in the very short term. I know some have secret hopes of replacing some (if not all) of teachers’ work with digital technology, but I hope you, like me, don’t want to do this: you know what’s on The stake in the pedagogical relationship is not reducible to machine training, however sophisticated and efficient it may be. You know that the thought of learning analytics, under the pretense of “adapting” to individuals, freezes them in a hypothetical “nature” and defines their future from their past… unbearable essentialization that you have always fought against.

The priority, Mr. Minister, should also, in my view, be the priority, Mr. Minister, to give back the meaning of the teaching professions, so that our young people can devote themselves to them again. Of course, this requires real financial and social recognition, which was long overdue. But this is also the fundamental affirmation of the importance of their mission. And speaking of “mission” today isn’t anecdotal, it’s not just bickering over a vocabulary… it’s a radical sea change related to a policy over the past five years that has seen their profession as a simple set of tasks in the service of “users.” “. The opposite of a social commitment to the common good.

You know, however, that no job can be reduced to the sum of the skills necessary to exercise it, and the teaching job less than any other job. Every profession requires what Cornelius Castoriadis called “a mythological house,” without which there is only a juxtaposition of mocking activities. Without this “mythological hearth” you don’t know why you get up in the morning and at the slightest effort discouragement takes over, eventually leading to resignation or routine, guilt and resentment.

It is therefore up to you, I think – and it is a wonderful task – to restore the political significance of the educator profession, to tell teachers and all those who oversee our youth that they are carriers of values ​​and that these values ​​are not those of escalating consumption, nor those of social separatism, nor those of individualistic careerism… they are the ones you fought for: emancipation and solidarity. Emancipation, that is, the opportunity given to everyone to surpass themselves, to undermine any labels we might put on her or him, and to break out of all forms of confinement. Solidarity, that is, the discovery that we are brothers and sisters in humanity, and that only mutual aid and cooperation can save us from a collective shipwreck.

And you know, like me, that these values ​​of emancipation and solidarity in no way contradict the content of the most demanding knowledge, any more than they are foreign to them… on the contrary! To the extent that school knowledge is acquired from this dual perspective, it becomes real “knowledge”, that it allows us to grow and progress, that it builds our common humanity.

Bernard Stiegler, who passed away prematurely, urged us in 2008 to “take care of the youth and the generations”. He was right. It’s time, more than ever, to hear it. And to ensure this for teachers and teaching staff. This will be your job. They don’t expect demagogic flattery from you, but a frank and clear relationship to chart the course together for years to come. They expect you to look very quickly at their initial training, which today is so severely compromised, and their ongoing training, completely destroyed. They expect you to work with them at the ends without chaining them to infantilizing modalities. In short, they expect their minister to work with them to develop a public education service that can prepare our children for the coming society.

Philippe Meirieu

Honorary Professor of Educational Sciences

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