France: After us, they have a go at our kids?

Coronavirus: inconsistencies at the top, discontent at the workplaces

This post is translated from French from:

High schools occupied by cops, kids gassed, teachers threatened…

After us, they have a go at our kids?*

Macron called on his troops to show “humanity”… after the Minister of Labour’s blunder in refusing to vote to extend parental leave to 12 days in the event of a child’s death. But make no mistake… Macron’s “humanity” is for just show.

A Blanquer baccalaureate… with a Castaner addition!**

Just for a fire in a garbage can during a rally in front of their high school, four high school students found themselves in police custody all night, before being referred to the Paris Public Prosecutor’s Office. In high schools as elsewhere, the government, led by Education Minister Blanquer, is trying to force through a reform that no one wants: teachers and students alike have been denouncing for weeks the total uncertainty surrounding the new baccalaureate exams and the stress that this creates.

Demonstrators everywhere are unanimous: there is a strong anger against these exams, but also against the current state of education, where job cuts and lack of resources are degrading the conditions for effective study while increasing inequality.

So the government’s response is “humanity” in action. At the Guist’hau high school in Nantes, students were gassed at close range. Same thing in Bordeaux, Rennes, Le Mans or in Seine-Saint-Denis, where the tests were held because the police were patrolling in the school corridors. Ministers and local education authorities went on a rampage, producing threatening circulars demanding that school principals ramp up punishments, that they take from teachers’ salaries even if it’s illegal, that they threaten pupils with a zero score that would count for 30% of the baccalaureate mark… Some school principals were satisfied to oblige, perhaps thinking they operate a prison and not a school… Indeed, in some high schools, in Bordeaux, in Aiguillon, the students were confined, locked up, with padlocked gates and deactivated fire alarms by these overzealous principals.

So much so that Rodrigo Arenas, the president of the FCPE, the main federation of parents, denounces the criminalization of protesting students, “punished because they rebel… it’s unbelievable,” he concludes.

Despite all this, the exams were disrupted in 660 schools, and in more than 200 schools the tests even had to be postponed or cancelled. “Where no one is making a mess, things are going quite normally,” Blanquer finally declared on February 5. But if the government continues to push its luck, the mess might become more widespread.

A breach in the wall of contempt?

Blanquer & Co may say that the exams are going well overall, but the situation is such that he just announced the next tests will be organized differently. That is a setback for him, caused by the mobilization that highlighted the contempt of a line management for its employees, and the will to fight collectively. This gives us the confidence to continue the fight against pension reform.

The government is not done with the protest. This is demonstrated by the actions of lawyers, garbage collectors in Paris and Marseille, Enedis and nuclear power plant employees, and all the demonstrators who took part in the day of action on February 6, and brought up the numbers of demonstrators. With all these hotbeds of protest, we can still give the government a cold sweat!

*Explanation of the title “After us, our kids?” In French: “Après nous, nos enfants” is a kind of mimicking of the title of a very good bestseller novel, “Prix Goncourt 2018,” about young teenagers in a poor town in east of France. The title was: “Leur enfants après eux.” So, for this editorial, it is “Après nous, nous enfants ?” (but it could have been “Nos enfants après nous”…

**Blanquer: the National Education secretary, “Castaner”, the national Police secretary, “Minitre de l’Intérieur”. Many joke with his name because in French slang, “Castagner” means to “beat” somebody. So Castaner, the minister of police violence.

PDF Download