Before the summer, the local council put the symbols of the French Republic : “Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité” on the schools of our small town . More recently, they added the French flag, next to these symbols. Throughout France, all state schools now have these symbols. It is part of an initiative from the government to reinforce the values of the republic following the January 2015 terrorist attacks.
Reinforcing values of the French Republic
The January terror attack against Charlie hebdo shook the French people. They felt their whole value system was being attacked. What made it worst was that the two terrorists behind the attack were born and brought up in France. Somehow, somewhere, the French education system has failed, and the government is trying to reinforce the values of the French republic in the schools. Putting the republican symbols on the walls of the schools is one step toward this goal. It is also an attempt to reinforce unity in a country that is deeply divided. Teachers must also talk about the French values in class and discuss it with the children.
Inaugurating the symbols
Our local town council wanted to mark the occasion by organizing a short ceremony in each school, around these symbols. They initially planned to do it at the end of the day, without the parents. That’s how they did it in the two other schools of the town. But our school council thought it would b a good idea to include as many parents as possible. We asked the town council if we could organize an event with as many parents as possible, on Wednesdays morning, before classes start. Usually there are more parents available on Wednesdays.
So, this morning, parents and children were invited to share a republican breakfast and hear a short speech from our mayor. the children had learned la Marseillaise. They also sang le chant des partisans, an anthem of the French resistance. A few also sang les Allobroges, the anthem of Savoy, our region.
About 30 parents turned up, which is very good. Those I spoke to thought it was a good idea and enjoyed the ceremony. It gives a sense of community one of them said. The event had been planned before the 13th November attack, but the timing was perfect and one of the councilors gave a good word about these.
Now the question is: will reinforcing the values of the republic help integrating those who feel they are on the margin of French society ? I doubt the answer is as simple as that. But it is a start.
A few months ago, I filmed a short series of meditations on the book of Habakuk for the Brussels Bible Institute. They were posted on their website at the beginning of the summer. I am now feeling like a celebrity. I have come across 2 people who recognised me after watching them.
I am in Brussels for my first marathon weekend of three. I will be teaching church history all morning today and ecclesiology all afternoon tomorrow. I still have a lot of work to do for tomorrow but it should be fun.
Teaching in Brussels Bible Institute has been a new experience to me. I have enjoyed it thanks to a motivated and interested group of students. But I have hated the preparation work. As I am writing, I must teach a class on church history on Friday morning and one on Ecclesiology Saturday. I still feel I don’t master the subjects. But one of my friends reassured me today.
When his daughter was asked to teach history of art to college students, he told her she had never studied the subject. She replied that it was true but that she was only one step ahead of the students.
I feel better now.