Culture at school | The duty

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We announced two good news in education this week. The first is a bill on the National Pupil Protector; the second, a set of measures aimed at strengthening the links between school and culture.

Without knowing the subject well, I will have nothing to say about the first announcement. But the second challenges the philosopher. I predict that there are significant challenges ahead and I think we should prepare well for them. My reflection, you will see, leads me to a perhaps unexpected conclusion, but which seems to me to be obvious.

Culture at school

With all the nuances called for in particular by the age of children and the subjects that could be dealt with, it is crucial to think of school as a place which is relatively sheltered from certain contemporary social debates and which, therefore, demands many things of us. Children, new to an old world, to speak like Hannah Arendt, come to be educated there and thereby receive what will allow them, in turn and when the time comes, to innovate and renew the world.

This is verified by the school’s relationship to culture and even by the cultural outings it offers. The adult chooses where he wants to go – say to the museum; the school has selected this outing for the pupil (and has done it for, hopefully, good educational reasons), and the pupil must go. Adults can visit the exhibition as they wish and leave it when they wish; the pupil arrives there prepared and with tasks to accomplish. The adult can then say a word about it to no one; work on the subject of the exhibition no doubt awaits the pupil on his return to school.

What culture will we make known? What culture will we showcase outside of school – or invite? These decisions are largely based on the idea we have of the school’s mission, but also on the meaning of the word “culture”.

Culture in the anthropological sense

A first anthropological meaning conceives of it as ways of thinking and acting specific to a group. In any society, this has its place at school, including in a multicultural society like ours. But what place? And what exactly? This requires reflection and justification.

However, it is clear that the mere existence of a particular cultural component is not sufficient to justify its inclusion in school, as is the mere fact that a children’s work is signed by an author belonging to a minority. cultural (or talks about) does not make its inclusion in a school library necessary.

In all of this complex issue, the school’s socialization mission weighs heavily, which needs to be taken into account. But it is not necessary to be a diviner to foresee that we will have here sometimes thorny and difficult debates. Positive discrimination against meritocracy, cultural appropriation, nationalism decried as identity, racism, and other controversial subjects await us at the turn, as so many possible obstacles …

High culture

A second meaning of the word “culture” is this time more directly linked to the primary mission of the school: to provide access to knowledge. We enter here in this universe in which claims its place what humanity has said and done best, or at least what we can legitimately take for such.

The cultural mission of the school, this time, is to initiate to great works, to make them known and, we hope, to love, those from everywhere, of course, but also and especially those of the culture to which belongs school, in this case, Quebec culture.

The school program plays or should play a large part in all of this, and the culture that we are going to encounter outside of school or that we invite to it is first and foremost this culture. This necessary work is the school’s own mission. To accomplish it correctly is also a question of justice: too many children do not have the great advantages that certain family origins provide to access this universe.

We can hope that good choices of meetings between students and high culture will be made. A crucial element here is the teaching program, which must be rich and correctly transmitted.

The school, having taught the students important things about the art of XXe century, organized a visit to an exhibition dedicated to Miro – or Borduas; having taught French poetry of the XIXe century, she organized a conference on Nelligan. And so on. We are here very far, we will agree, from a discussion on the advisability of modifying the agreement of the past participle used with “to have”.

The school therefore has a role to play in all of this, but so does the community, in particular by defining the program taught and ensuring that it is taught correctly.

All these ambitions, however, presuppose a vehicle, a means of transmission, through which communication takes place: and this vehicle is language. It is through it that we gain access to anthropological culture and high culture. At the moment our language (should I really give examples) is in bad shape, not to say despised. The school can help. But good collective decisions are also essential to nurture this culture, to make it known and loved, to prepare the pupil to live in it and to enrich it.

How then can we explain that the government in place refuses to make compulsory attendance at French CEGEP for allophones and francophones? If the defense and promotion of culture, in both senses of the word, are one of the tasks of the school, this inaction in the face of the state of French in our country is entirely inexplicable.

To put it mildly …

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