PAmong all the current tragedies, there is one that directly affects the presidential election campaign and which stems from the over-mediatization of right-wing and far-right ideas at the expense of left-wing ideas and proposals. This situation leaves us stuck in our anger, deprived of any possibility, weaned from the future to the point where we are pushed to see only darkness, catastrophe, ultimate collapse. It’s not so bad to be shocked every morning and night by the vile words of ministers, MPs and candidates, each more hateful and false than the last. We are made that way, people of the left, used to reacting to adversity, to the misfortune inflicted on the weakest, the most dominated, the poorest. But now we’re probably too reactive. And political despair is also due to the fact that in the face of various forms of political reaction and moral regression we are only reactive and not self-conscious enough.
The current situation paints an image of confusion, constriction and powerlessness on the part of the political left and its supporters, which is very difficult for the “people of the left” to acknowledge and support, even if we have learned from various polls that these are the concerns of the French beyond political divisions social, economic, health, educational and just as much if not more than “security”. The confusion obviously has political roots. They are due to the neoliberal policies pursued, including in the field of education, by a certain “left” that has abandoned all its ideals and all its characteristics. But that does not absolve the “left of the left” of the responsibility of speaking like Bourdieu in terms of the will and all too often failing ability to build a “hegemonic bloc,” to use Gramsci’s formula. Undoubtedly, a debate is needed to translate this desire into a unifying strategy. But it would be suicidal for this “left of the left” to cling to discourses in which everyone blames themselves for this impotence. For reasons of clarity and coherence, the comparison of projects and programs is entirely legitimate. But the only accusations against each other are not worthy of the moment.
Perhaps what can be saved in the current debacle can still be saved. What can be salvaged, and what the left can salvage, is the confirmation of a possible future other than that promised to us by the reactionary neoliberals in power and the reactionary neoliberals in opposition. What should be created and grow is the affirmative power of a desirable society, it is the reformulation of an alternative for tomorrow. “Otherwise I’ll choke on what’s possible,” was the subjective formula for Deleuze and Guattari that triggered 68. Haud Guéguen and Laurent Jeanpierre, The prospect of the possible. How to think what can happen to us and what we can do The Discovery, 2022.)
Take education as an example. It’s an expanding discourse denouncing Blanquer, his authoritarianism, his contempt for teachers, students and parents. Since Allègre, no education minister has embodied so strongly what arrogant statism is, a way of crushing the school under directives, reforms, programs without regard to the “field”. From the change in the status of the school director to the absurd reform of the Abitur, which destroyed the spirit of study freed from exam and selection anxiety, we are certainly rightly outraged and revolted. As for the old moons of university operations, with high tuition fees that can only be passed off as “innovation” with a great deal of ignorance and amnesia, we must of course denounce them. Of course, the legitimate rebellion of conscience should not prevent us from analyzing the already ancient logics aimed at transforming the institution in order to make it an effective tool of professional and social choice. Ultimately, however, the main features of this critique have been mapped out for a long time, and we seem condemned to repeating the same critique over and over again, namely that of a school remodeled according to the logic of “human capital”, which we could also better call “inhuman capital”. And what of the troubling ministerial smear campaign against academics and researchers, repeating the worst rhetoric of l’alter right American and Brazilian extreme right.
We are a thousand times right to criticize all these modernist and traditionalist obscurantisms, which together add up to a sinister concert. But what is missing above all is a major educational project that corresponds to this desirable society that we talked about above, that is, a project that aims to transform the educational system as a whole and in all its aspects, in order to educate people and citizens who tomorrow, we hope, will have to live in an egalitarian, ecological, feminist, democratic society.
Why is it so important to start changing practices and creating a systemic education plan now? from the future ? Nothing is more forward-looking than education, nothing more crucial to the kind of society, economy and democracy we want for tomorrow. As this new society is being prepared today, it is the new generations who will soon have to face the consequences of the world as capitalism and state nationalisms will bequeath and transform the social, political and economic from top to bottom. Yet everything is done as if we could generously acknowledge the “breakthrough in the production model” necessary for human survival, without asking what such a break is now supposed to mean for society as a whole, and for the educational realm in particular.
It’s not about creating projects for society and education that are as beautiful as they are abstract. Rather, it is about making the connection between the transformations possible today and a longer-term project. There are practical experiences such as reflections on it that are still fallow, too scattered, not systematized enough. If it goes without saying that we cannot transform school without a clear goal of future society, it is also obvious that it is the transformation of school now that can make this desirable society shapeable and possible. . For dangling happiness in the future can prove to be quite futile unless one introduces at least the ferments of possible new social relationships into daily life. For example, how can we give a taste of real democracy, deliberation and collective decision-making if we don’t practice them in the matrix place of the school? How can we get the habits and mentalities of tomorrow’s citizens to pass on the ecological concern when the latter is never more than a “soul attachment” or an alibi, in an education that remains subject to the logic of production and competition?
We wanted to start elaborating such a dialectic between the possibilities of today and the projection of a new educational system in the book democratic education, the result of many years of joint work. It seemed to us that education deserved better than the admittedly necessary but partial proposals to increase teachers’ salaries or increase investment in higher education. It should be noted that a few weeks before the election, the debate has not yet taken place and, worse, the education issue has so far been dropped. There are entire political programs in which the word “education” is not even mentioned, neither by the journalists nor by the candidates. And when they do, it’s often by the worst representatives of the right, who swear by elitist selection and the restoration of old authoritarian methods. The only small “chance” that it will be taken a little more seriously one day, and that is quite paradoxical when you think about France’s social and political history, is the announcement made here or there on the occasion of “rehearsal balloons” by its supporters, that Macron will present a program to radically transform education in due course. And we know in what sense he desires it!
There was a whole era, for more than a century, when school was an issue of the left, an issue almost as central as the ‘social question’. In addition, school matters and social issues were closely linked by the various parties and trade unions. But what do the various fragments of a left worthy of the name today say on this subject? No doubt some components agree, and it is fortunate to recognize the importance of contemplating the project of social and environmental transformation at the height of a civilizational turning point. But logic would dictate that from such an observation grows the message of a necessary and desirable educational project on new foundations. So that the vital questions of educational freedom, the real equality of the teaching conditions, the mediated content, cooperation in education, the democratic organization of the institutions are consistently asked. And that these crucial questions are brought to the public with conviction.
Last published title: Democratic Education: The Coming School Revolution, The Discovery, 2021.