The blind spot of education policies? As the latest figures from the Ministry of National Education find an increase in attacks on secularism in October, Marie-Françoise Chavanne warns of abuses by private schools outside the contract. The long-time dean of inspectors of the Academy of Versailles, in 2016, had written a report, consulted by Marianna, which highlighted serious defects in the teaching and transmission of the Republic’s values within private schools. Eight years later, under the right to education, it calls for strengthening the training of inspectors in the control of these schools.
Marianne: How did you get interested in out of contract?
Marie-Francoise Chavanne: As dean of second degree inspectors of the Academy of Versailles from 2002 to 2014, I faced this question. First, by monitoring the education of home-educated children, we have been able to observe the abuse and deprivation of education of more and more children. If among the more than three hundred young people picked up every year during skills acquisition checks, some were educated, we faced a very large majority of lost, failed, socially isolated or withdrawn young people from the school system for ideological and religious reasons or under the influence of sectarian groups. Then in 2013, the General Inspectorate, in collaboration with Miviludes [Mission interministérielle de vigilance et de lutte contre les dérives sectaires]asked me to go and inspect a Steiner-Waldorf school [la Fédération des écoles Steiner-Waldorf se présente comme un réseau d’écoles prônant une pédagogie alternative, mais se fonde sur les préceptes de Rudolf Steiner, un occultiste allemand fondateur d’un courant ésotérique, l’anthroposophie]
And what did you discover there?
I was accompanied by eleven inspectors from different disciplines. The visit had to be unannounced to avoid courses specially planned for inspections. Divided into teams, we attended several sessions and visited the facilities. The children were extremely polite. But we have seen courses based on beliefs rather than knowledge. We have not seen a single course, even in history or physics, that gives reliable information. Everything there was esoteric with a permanent confusion between fact and myth. During the eurhythmy sessions, a practice that combined dance and meditation, students stood in a circle and chanted.
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This is not an isolated case: then you were responsible for checking other non-contract schools, of all kinds, marked by excesses.
Always with groups of first and second level inspectors and often technical advisors, we inspected private schools outside the contract for three years at the Versailles academy. We controlled the radical Catholic institutions of the Society of St. Pius X [un courant catholique intégriste en rupture avec le Vatican], and Muslim schools. In almost all cases we have made alarming findings. At one of the Saint-Pie-X schools reserved for girls, the sister who ran the institution wanted to refuse our visit when she saw that I was arriving with male inspectors. The letter of recommendation overcame his resistance.
“Many media outlets denigrate the Public School to glorify the ‘new’ pedagogies dating from the 1930s to the 1970s.”
What special things have you noticed in the schools of the Society of Saint Pius X?
In an elementary school of the controlled Saint-Pie-X fraternity, we found books with deeply racist, Petainist and creationist orientations. In civic education, the role of women was guiding: Mom always has a smile, the meal is always ready on time “. Surprising that the students do not ask any questions, a Dominican sister answered me: ” Yes, but after the Church has given answers, we give the answers of the Church “. In one of the schools, it was found that the pages of the textbooks devoted to sex education were blocked… but the young girls were able to attend a conference about love, by a speaker, who presented in a language she wanted to be branch the body as the place of temptation, saved from the heart and brain.
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Finally, what common traits emerge from all these different charter schools?
The education offered does not respect the right to education defined by the Constitution, nor the values of the Republic, nor does it contradict them. It does not guarantee the conditions for the acquisition of common core skills. At best, the “civic” education offered is about the organization of society, the rules of life, in relation to religious principles, without ever mentioning secularism. Critical thinking, questioning, debate are excluded. There is a lot of rote learning without questioning or dialogue: students are prepared for an ideological conformity that is not conducive to open and civic thinking and when we read ” how to deal with an inferior “where” how to recognize the white race “It is urgent to take measures. Conveying bias or misleading information is likely to undermine the acquisition of values and oppose the acquisition of intellectual tools that allow students’ moral autonomy.
Marked by what you have seen in these schools, you decide on your own initiative to write a report to demonstrate that it is possible to observe and prove educational deprivation. In 2016, you handed it over to various institutional actors. How was it received? Although you are now retired, do you think the situation has improved?
This report was made for the Ministry of Education, Miviludes and the Ministry of the Interior. It was used in several academies and mentioned in the press in 2017. A Steiner school was closed the following year… Then there was the Gatel law in 2018, which has since better regulated the opening of non-contract schools and put controls in place. But the movements continue, the flaws remain. Since then, it seems to me that my report has been “blocked”, hence my surprise that I was questioned several times this year by inspectors general who requested this report… Today it is urgent to strengthen the training of inspectors on these issues. and more specifically in the control protocol. This is even more urgent due to the fact that there is a disturbing global context with the denial of historical facts, of scientific knowledge, the contestation of the values of the Republic and the enthusiasm for the so-called “natural” virtues, beliefs and opinions. in the broad sense that they tend to question knowledge.
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You also denounce the indulgence enjoyed by certain schools outside of contracts in the media.
For years, I have seen the repeated attacks by many media which denigrate the public school in order to praise the pedagogy”. new dating from the 1930s to the 1970s. Discovery, craze, mirage or propaganda? We can quote Telerama and the Montessori method, world and his very tolerant data on anthroposophy or Le Figaro magazine and his attacks on the public school which ” would indoctrinate » children! During a seminar at Dauphine University on alternative schools and new pedagogies, I was struck by the systematic denigration of public schools – described in turn as classical, mainstream or traditional – with the argument that the public school could not take care of children when they have difficulties or are intellectually precocious, or give them a high-level moral education.