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Samuel Paty: at school, a tribute to freedom of expression

On this Monday of resumption, Didier Georges wears gray suit, black tie, white mask crossed out with a hashtag and a name: Samuel Paty. The principal of the college of Grange-aux-Belles, in the Xe arrondissement of Paris, gathered its teachers in the refectory to discuss the unique context of this mini-re-entry. There is the reinforced health protocol (including the displacement of only teachers during the intercourse, the students remaining in the same class), the provisions of the Vigipirate “emergency attack” plan (door closed for any outside person without an appointment) and of course, the contours of the homage paid, from 10 am to 11 am, to the history-geo teacher assassinated in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, on the eve of the holidays.

→ CONTEXT. Homage to Samuel Paty: history teachers facing history

For this unprecedented educational session, which each teacher, whatever his discipline, is invited to lead, Didier Georges recommends taking care “The right balance” between what has been prepared and the reactions of the students. “Some may express views that are not what you expect. If a student feels that it is wrong to publish cartoons of Mohammed, you can tell them that it is their opinion and that they have the right to express it, while reminding them that the rules of France allow this publication. On the other hand, if he says that the terrorist was right to kill the teacher, please let me know. Because then I would have to report for radicalization. “

“More than imposing the values ​​of the Republic, making them understood”

In the room, exchanges are lively. Some teachers do not feel well equipped to respond to possible responses from students. Not to mention the shock caused by the assassination of a colleague. “I am counting on you to rise to the occasion, to the extent of what each and every one of you feels to do. More than imposing the values ​​of the Republic, we must make them understood ”, insists Didier Georges.

This is the approach of Paul Airiau. This history-geography teacher has a meeting with a class of 3e. And he chose to devote a good part of this time for reflection to the study of a decision of the tribunal de grande instance of Paris. It is about a case which opposes, in 2007, Charlie hebdo to Muslim associations. Which believe that the publication of the prophet’s caricature infringes freedom of conscience and demand a condemnation of the weekly.

→ MAINTENANCE. Sébastien Ledoux: “We must show students the interest of secularism”

Once you have overcome the vocabulary difficulties (“Pluralism means that there are several different opinions”), the teacher unrolls questions and instructions to better help his students to understand the role of justice in the regulation of rights and freedoms. And to understand that we must turn our backs on any personal revenge: “Who is the author of this document? “, “Take note of what is permitted by freedom of expression”, “What is the difference between blasphemy and insult? “

Criticize beliefs, not people

To explain this distinction, this historian allows himself a detour through Antiquity, in order to keep emotions at bay. “We can say about the Egyptian gods that Ra is a moron. But not that all those who believe in Ra are morons. You can criticize opinions and beliefs, but not people. “

→ LARGE FORMAT. “The enthusiasm of the reunion suffocated by the mask”: story of a month in college

The session continues, as in all classes in France, with the reading of a text by Jaurès, his “Letter to teachers”, soon followed by a minute of silence. At this moment, a pupil pretends to put on his cap, out of provocation, then changes his mind and joins his classmates for a time of respectful homage, if not really charged with emotions.

Paul Airiau may have questioned his students, the debate did not take hold. No more than in another class of 3e where the math professor, very touched, spoke more directly of the dramatic news of Conflans. It is only at the midday break that the tongues are loosened. “Samuel Paty was within his rights”, believes Myrtille, expressing a majority opinion. “Nothing justifies killing someone”, considers one of his comrades, who prefers to keep his name silent. “But showing the caricatures has something to hurt, we must respect religions”, she urges. The class, the tribute, the minute’s silence will not change anything: she sees in the approach of the deceased teacher, as in those of many other teachers, a part of“Islamophobia”.


“A more serene tribute than after the 2015 attacks”

Philippe Vincent, general secretary of SNPDEN, the main union of school leaders

“After the 2015 attacks, the tribute had seen protests from students everywhere, by provocation or because they were convinced that the Charlie Hebdo journalists had been looking for it. This time, perhaps because the health context is very significant, because the school world is affected, because the attack took the atrocious form of beheading, it seems – in view of the first rises – that the sessions of reflection and the minute of silence took place more serenely. “


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