Reset the Republican clock. The Council of Elders of Secularism (CSL), installed in January 2018 by the Minister of Education Jean-Michel Blanquer, presented, Monday, April 4, a report of four years of activity. Chaired by sociologist Dominique Schnapper, this body, made up of around twenty members, carried out two missions simultaneously.
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First, renew the range of conceptual tools, such as the publication of a “republican guide”, and develop practical brochures: “Laïcité à l’école »“Acting against racism and anti-Semitism”, or even in collective reception areas for minors. “We tried not to be in an overhanging position but to work alongside those who are on the ground”, explains Dominique Schnapper.
A mission carried out in particular with the Order of Physicians and several in situ visits resulted in a booklet concerning the avoidance of sports lessons via “unjustified medical certificates”of “complacency”. Another document will soon be published on secularism in sports activities.
One million trained teachers
Then, take part in the unprecedented effort to upgrade national education officials. A thousand trainers have followed a 60-hour course on secularism to provide education to 250,000 colleagues each year, with the objective of one million people trained by 2025.
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Since the council is not an operational intervention body, the ministry has also set up a network of secularism teams and referents in establishments, led at national level by a “values of the Republic” team, which can be taken directly by the headteachers. Since 2018, education staff have also had the possibility of reporting a difficulty to the ministry (1).
Member of the CSL, Iannis Roder confirms that there is no “direct circuit” to seize the authority, but its members can be it individually. Jean-Louis Auduc advances the figure of approximately 200 requests that the council had to know, half of which are cases of contestation of teaching.
Only 15% of agents have a clear idea of secularism
The assassination of Samuel Paty on October 16, 2020 represented an electric shock for the institution. The tragedy had notably caused an amplification of the training program for 5.5 million civil servants. The philosopher Isabelle de Mecquenem, member of the CSL, wrote a report in May 2021 to plan this huge project. “This is the first time that such a public policy has been put in place. We have an obligation of result. believes the academic who refers to a December 2020 survey commissioned by the public authorities and never published: “Only 15% of agents said they had received training, often a simple awareness of secularism”, she summarizes. Since then, times have changed and the need for a leap has become apparent. “It’s a construction site of at least ten years”, considers the secretary general of the council, Alain Seksig.
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“Secularism was self-evident, but today we see a generational divide”, observes for its part Delphine Girard, professor of letters of the academy of Créteil. Regarding new teachers, the offer of training institutes (the Inspé) was very uneven, sometimes non-existent. They will have to adapt. From this spring, the competitions, in particular the Capes, will include two questions on secularism in the oral test, one on a school life situation, the other linked to the discipline taught. “From the moment we touch on the content of the exams, the preparation of future teachers follows”, explains Jean-Louis Auduc.
“We did what we could, but the job is far from over,” concludes Dominique Schnapper. Wanted by Jean-Michel Blanquer, the council of wise men should in principle survive the minister if he had to leave the Rue de Grenelle. In the event of a change of majority, however, nothing is set in stone.