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A “grain of poor” in the unequal gear of the school



A consoling exception. A grain of poor in the machine

Jean-Paul Delahaye

Ed. from the Librairie du Labyrinthe, 2021, € 17.

It is a touching book, even poignant. That of a man, Jean-Paul Delahaye, who describes himself as a “Class defector”. Or if you prefer, “A consoling exception”, an expression by which Ferdinand Buisson, one of the fathers of the Republican school, designated the rare scholarship holders received in the best high schools.

As a child, Jean-Paul Delahaye indeed experienced poverty, the stinging shame when it was necessary, repeatedly, to carry out basic necessities on credit at the village grocery store, to watch for the arrival of the postman, hoping that ‘ with him would arrive the family allowances.

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Jean-Paul Delahaye has left the little mud house nestled in the heart of the Somme. He rose through knowledge, by integrating the normal school of teachers, before knowing, much later, the gilding of the Ministry of Education, of which he became, in 2014, n ° 2, his director general of school education.

Gratitude and promise of fidelity

But his very intimate story begins two years earlier, when as special advisor to the newly appointed Minister Vincent Peillon, the one who is already Inspector General enters the cabinet, rue de Grenelle. That day, surrounded by men and women from wealthy families, graduating from high schools, Jean-Paul Delahaye felt at his side another presence, which gave him courage and dignity, that of his mother, carried away by cancer. thirty years earlier. A mother who had been alternately agricultural worker, domestic worker, cleaning lady, always at ” to grab the devil by the tail “ to raise her five children on her own.

It is to her that the author addresses the second person throughout the book. A testament to gratitude but also a promise. Promise to remain faithful to its native environment and to do everything possible so that the French school, champion of inequalities, is finally interested in the most modest students. Promise to stay this “Poor man’s grain” in the gear of the great sorting and excluding machine.

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The book is woven back and forth between family history and the commitments of a senior civil servant. Throughout the pages, the Inspector General also evokes the conclusions of a report, entitled Great poverty and academic success, which he wrote himself in 2015. A key step in his stubborn fight against “School and social separatism” which, he protests, humiliates the weakest, undermines democracy, weighs on our economy.

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