London Metropolitan University Research Institutes

Citizenship crisis in France, education citizenship crisis

Author(s) Zoïa, G. & Étienne, R.  
Publisher London: CiCe  
Year 2013  
Editor P. Cunningham (ed.) Identities and Citizenship Education: Controversy, crisis and challenges  
Age group -  
This paper explores the notions of French ‘laïcité’ and French citizenship to understand what is at stake when the French speak of identities. It is based on surveys carried out in schools in underprivileged areas. Our approach is ethnographic and consists in the interactive and participating observation between young people whose parents are migrants and professionals related to education (school, associations). Our survey highlights the discrepancies between some form of “laïcité” considered as a superior social link serving neutral universal values and the different ways young people participate in school: asserting differences, seeking recognition for identity… Indeed, the French school believes in the construction of individuals against particularisms, at the core of the paradigm that opposes the individual model (Reason) to the collective model (private interests, the irrational): it is the picture of citizenship that actually excludes the picture of the community (cultural community, the peers). In France this model is now questioned for its possible opposition to a religion, Islam. Moreover social injustice increases at school in particular with migrant populations. They are not equal in terms of self-esteem, access to public participation, or in relation to political or economic weight in the city area. We have observed that young people are less prone to listen within an educating discourse that overwhelms (or patronizes?) them. The challenge is thus to value diversity without giving up education. If modern societies are submitted to a “disheritage” process (the loss of linkage with a preceding state of these societies), then what traditions are to be passed over? Our research leads us to think that the teaching of morale laïque, decided for 2013 start of the new academic year by the French State implies that it may be seen as hostile to the migrant communities who have not inherited “laïcité” in their culture. Keywords: citizenship, secularism, citizenship education, disheritage

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