PARIS, France, May 18, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Dismantling of the family, attacks against parental rights and times of trouble for faith-based, mainly Catholic schools are looming large in French politics since France’s new socialist president, François Hollande, took over office from Nicolas Sarkozy on Tuesday morning at the Elysée, in Paris.
Government nominations, as well as Hollande’s inaugural speeches, are making it clear that ideological choices have been made and can be expected to be implemented in the near future. The discussion of a law instituting gay “marriage” has been announced for the Fall by the new Family minister – that is, if the French legislative elections in June vote in a socialist majority, which is considered likely.
Hollande’s first public act after the official investiture ceremonies at the Elysée Palace in Paris, on Tuesday, was to drive over to the nearby Tuileries gardens to pay tribute to the founder of the French state school system, Jules Ferry, whose monument was erected there in 1910 by the secularist “Ligue de l’enseignement” (League of Education).
The timing and the symbolism of this first presidential act was seen as a clear indicator that Hollande aims to intensify the role of the state in education and to step up control over what remains of the private school sector.
The new president’s speech front of former education ministers – exclusively of the socialist variety – teachers and dozens of children, used military phraseology to make his point. “School is the weapon of justice. It is the weapon of republican equality,” he said. A weapon to force “equality”, or to put it more clearly, egalitarianism.
School, as François Hollande sees it, is “the locus of equality.” “Equality of opportunity,” according to the new socialist president, means equality that “knows no other measure of distinction than personal merit and effort, since birth, fortune and chance establish hierarchies which schools have the mission, if not the duty, to correct, and even to destroy.”
Interesting omissions and changes to the written speech were made by François Hollande in his spoken delivery at this point. He left out the word “talents” as a legitimate measure of distinction and changed the phrase saying that the mission of schools regarding these hierarchies is “if not to abolish, at least to correct” them, choosing the much more aggressive formula quoted above.
This agenda, to be implemented in a country where large sections of the poorer suburbs of many major cities are mainly populated by ethnic minorities, many of them Muslim, has already shown its limits: the level of general culture of most school-leavers has gone steadily down over the past decades in a system where exactly the same curriculum is supposed to apply to all pupils up to age 14 or 15. In state schools leftist teachers’ organizations and progressive pedagogues have had the upper hand since 1968. François Hollande clearly intends to enhance their power and to dismantle the few concessions made to parental rights by the Sarkozy administration, which gave families a bit more freedom to choose a state school for their children and stepped up financial aids to private, state-funded schools.
Secularism is also a master word for schools according to Hollande. He sees schools as the “locus of emancipation”: emancipation from traditions and “dogma” in view of the “sovereign liberty of the spirit,” of reason left to itself. And also of reason destroyed: in state-funded French schools, be they public or private, whole reading methods and other pedagogical aberrations are effectively preventing a large percentage of French children from learning to read and think independently.
This is a far cry from the school of Jules Ferry, which formed minds and intelligences effectively, albeit in open conflict with religious beliefs.
Jules Ferry himself was remembered by François Hollande for two laws: the one which instituted cost-free primary schooling for all in 1881, and the law which in 1882 made schools secular and compulsory. At the time these laws were accompanied with persecution of faith-based schools and Catholic teaching congregations, many religious being expelled from the country or driven into exile.
Over the years, elements of freedom were returned to parents and nowadays 20% of pupils go to private, mostly Catholic schools where state curricula are obligatory, and teachers are formed and paid by the State. Only a fraction of schools are completely independent, receiving no direct public funds but entitled to issue tax refund forms for donations. These tax refunds are at risk of being suppressed under Hollande’s period of office.
The French Republic has long seen secularist state education as a means to counter the influence of families and faith. Hollande’s first speech on the matter, from which the words “parental rights” and “liberty” were totally absent, has made it clear that securalism is back with a vengeance.
As regards families, the naming of Mrs Dominique Bertinotti, a close friend of François Hollande’s ex-partner Ségolène Royal, as delegate minister to the Family, is seen as an insult to its defenders. Wednesday morning, hours before taking up her new office, she committed herself during an interview with the nationwide news radio “France-Info” to reduce tax relief associated with the number of children for richer families – less tax is owed when more persons form the “fiscal home” – in order to increase social aid to poorer families at the beginning of the school years. This would break with the French tradition of compensating a fraction of the extra charge children bring with them, whatever the social status of their family.
Bertinotti immediately promised to work on legalization of homosexual “marriage” and homosexual adoption and to “redefine” the meaning of the word family which should include, she says, not only the “classic” type but also “recomposed, single-parent and homoparental families,” so that they can obtain “exactly the same rights and be seen the same way by society, whatever their way of life.”
Mrs Bertinotti also intends to step up availability of public childcare systems, and to increase the number of 3, and even 2 year-olds in State schools.