(Co-authored by Matthew Cullinan Hoffman)
FRANCE, December 2, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) - A French history and geography high school teacher suspended for having organized a debate about abortion in a high school in Manosque, France, is demanding a right of reply after a local newspaper, La Provence, spread what he says is false information about the case.
The newspaper report led the French education minister to denounce the teacher’s alleged actions. “What has happened is unacceptable. Professors are under obligation to respect neutrality, and to have respect for the person,” said Minister Luc Chatel, promising sanctions would be applied.
The teacher, who remains anonymous, was accused of having organized a one-sided debate with his class of 15 year olds, who were said to have been “obliged” to stay while gory anti-abortion footage was being shown, without prior notice. Local reports added that he refused to respond to a summons from the school directors.
When the affair broke in the French national press on Monday, making headlines on national radio and TV shows, no reaction came from the accused teacher, who had not been contacted by the local press, nor by the school authorities. He says he only heard about the public outcry and his own suspension when he was contacted by a major television network on Wednesday evening, following a traffic accident in which his son was seriously injured.
In his right of reply, the teacher expresses his outrage at the “media lynching” prompted by the La Provence report. He points out that the French history, geography and civics curriculum requires teachers of the tenth grade class to organize debates on social issues, using contradictory documents. He organized one such debate on abortion in October, inviting his 115 pupils to participate and to bring any material they wished.
The professor himself provided the image of a 12-week-old fetus, the text of the 1975 abortion law, the speech made by Simone Veil to defend this text in the French National Assembly, and two documentaries: a subdued pro-life clip showing a young man first leaving his pregnant friend and then deciding to stand by her throughout her pregnancy, Sois un homme (Be a Man), and No need to argue. He acknowledges that the graphic material in the latter film, which includes images of real “abortion products” at various stages of pregnancy, is deeply disturbing. However, he insists that he warned his pupils that it was “hard to view,” and allowed those who did not wish to see the video to leave.
“I encouraged all my students to express themselves freely, with respect and tolerance for all. But,” he continued, “when it comes to the sad case of abortion, it is forbidden to describe the facts, to take science into account, and to argue with precision and critical sense.”
“Only the government ideology is supposed to be taught to the students and imposed upon them,” he continued. “This ideology considers abortion to be a right. The same government requires the opinions of the students – and of the teachers – to be set down and recorded during these debates, in order to ensure having a docile and servile population.”
Addressing the education minister, he said: “When all your sanctions and discrimination will have failed, [Minister] Chatel, what will be next in your brave new world ? What are students and professors who don’t think like you to expect, Minister? The gulag, the stake, or the gas chamber?”
In an interview with the news site “Nouvelles-de-France,” the professor added that at least one of the students who described the debate and protested heatedly against him was not a member of one of his classes; he had never even seen him before.
In a recent telephone interview, the teacher said that at first he wanted to protect his own future. But “now this affair has grown beyond my own personal scope, and I see my main obligation as fighting for the truth about abortion,” he said.
French secondary school children in state-funded schools – state schools and private catholic schools under contract with the state – are required to follow a detailed national curriculum, under which 13 and 14 year olds must learn all about contraception and how to use a condom. In the curriculum abortion is seen as a right and a major conquest of women in the 20th century. The French Family Planning’s website address is included in textbooks, as well as documents telling youngsters it is “normal” for them to be opposed to their parents or not to want to discuss these affairs with them.
In contrast to the strongly negative reaction to the teacher who organized the debate in Manosque, a film about abortion in communist Romania (4 months, 3 weeks and 2 days by Cristian Mungiu) received a special award from the French Ministry of Education in 2007 and may serve as a base for debates on the cinema in secondary schools. It graphically displays an aborted baby.