For as long as it has existed as an institution, school has been at the service of the management of the needs of the State and capital. It qualifies when there is a need for qualification, dequalifies when it is necessary to lower the cost of labour, and always teaches obedience and domesticates the savagery of childhood by integrating, whether by caning or alternative pedagogies, the need to accept this world and aspire to succeed. It is also the place where the possibility of revolt and refusal is played out, is always inevitably in crisis, traversed with tensions and contradictions inherent in this factory for the management of the unmanageable. From kindergarten to university, what goes on there, the relationships, the way adults, children, teenagers interact reflects this fundamental function.
If yesterday’s school was the object of criticism which had its relevance and has been partially integrated (thus deactivated) in the school of today, school today just seems to leave those who are nevertheless aware of the disaster helpless. We are offended by various details without finding the means to question them, or even simply describe the reality of what is at stake.
We propose opening up this vast project, to understand what is being played out in school with the help of everyone’s experience (we’ve all been there, some have never left …), but also reflecting on the various documentaries or fictions, in particular “Entre les murs”[Between the walls], “La journée de la jupe” [The day of the skirt] and “Etre et avoir” [Being and having], three films that, each in their own way, give a certain image of school, while proposing critical points of view about what is going on and what needs to be done. We chose these three films in the perspective of demolishing their prospects and finally opening a field of reflection for a radical critique of school, what happens there, what it produces and what produces it.
For this first discussion, we will focus on question of “free speech” at school. “Freedom of speech” is denied to students by reactionary pedagogies, because it would be a factor of disorder and distance knowledge. The Left-wing teachers say they want to promote it, and the State is putting it forward to pass off the hours of “class life” in the form of “free debates”, civic education courses and moral courses instituted following the 2015 attacks, and set up “students’ coffee shops”, as a deactivating valve needed to make the school pill pass and prepare students to practice and accept democratic rules. But what freedom are we talking about in the school setting? Under what conditions can we speak “freely”? To talk about what? Who can do it, at what times and in what spaces? Even leaving aside the school setting, what is this freedom that can only be “spoken”?
We will talk about it referring mainly to the movie “Between the walls”, which valorises, in a very liberal perspective in fact, freeing of speech presented as something subversive, even risky, in the dimension of a college class.
Translated by Act for freedom now!