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Secularism, an awareness campaign in schools is the subject of debate

“Allowing Eva and Kellijah to be inseparable while being different. This is secularism. “” Do everything so that Imrane, Axelle and Ismail think for themselves. This is secularism. ” In all, eight posters make up the new campaign of the Ministry of National Education to promote secularism in schools. We see students of different skin colors raising their fingers in class, reading in the library or playing sports. So many possible situations, according to the slogan, thanks to secularism.

→ ANALYSIS. Secularism, the offensive of Jean-Michel Blanquer

As soon as they were made public, Thursday, August 26, the posters – displayed in schools and on the Internet – drew criticism. In particular those of teachers’ unions, criticizing an amalgam judged “Dangerous” between first name, skin color and religious affiliation. Seeing in this campaign a “Racist and xenophobic deviation from secularism”, the SUD-education union (minority) asked the ministry to give it up.

La Vigie de laïcité, an independent body created in June by the former president of the Observatory of laïcité Jean-Louis Bianco, also reacted. “Behind a jovial and tolerant a priori, the message carried by these posters reassigns the students to their identities”, she denounces. A qualified accusation by Philippe Martin, director of the Higher Institute for the Study of Religions and Secularism (Iserl), who sees in this campaign “Shortcuts” already widespread: “Our society no longer considers religions and it’s regrettable only through the prism of the question of identity. “

Secularism or living together?

Another question raised by disgruntled commentators: the term “Secularism” is he not counter-employed? This campaign, which evokes neither the freedom of belief nor the neutrality of the agents of the State, does it not rather promote living together? As the Vigie de laïcité underlines, only one of the eight posters seems to correspond to the definition of laïcité: the one in which it is a question of “Give the same teaching” to different students “Whatever their beliefs”.

TO READ. On secularism, more accommodating young teachers

“These posters are not scientific material but awareness raising; they aim to make people understand what secularism is based on its effects ”, for his part, supports political scientist Philippe Raynaud. Him considers the countryside “Relevant”, although no doubt “Too sentimental”.

The historian and sociologist Jean Baubérot is more severe, judging this “Idyllic presentation” derisory in the face of the many questions raised in the public debate. Veiled mothers accompanying school trips, skirts “Too long” perceived as religious symbols … Jean-Michel Blanquer, which communicates in a recurring and almost obsessive manner on secularism, does not answer at all the questions that the pupils ask themselves ”, he regrets. They also have a more liberal conception of secularism than the government. One in two high school students is in favor of wearing religious symbols at school, according to an Ifop poll published in March 2021.


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