Issue n° 20


Moral chronicle : Literature, libertinism and truth, Patrick Vauday (CIPH)

What can we know about a book we haven’t yet opened ? No doubt we go by others’ opinions ; but more reliably by what its title tells us about it – provided that it indicates what it is about in some summary form rather than concealing this. What picture do we get in the case of ‘Catherine M.’ ? That bareness in writing will uncover (the truth about) desire : as naiveté, trickery, or as ‘ready made’ ? Is Madame Bovary really ‘him’ ? But in what conditions ?

Poetry : Mysteries of pedagogy, Andrea Zanzotto

The poet has been invited to speak at the reading centre. He has come from quite far away. He tells the children about Dante. They are very responsive. « There is no fight that fails to penetrate ». The elderly teacher wisely puts her knowledge to good use and watches. « Do you understand right ». What’s causing all the trouble?

Report: American Educations ?

Presentation, Pierre Statius and Hervé Touboul

Schools in America : excellence versus equality of opportunity, Malie Montagutelli (University of Paris 8)

American schools are pressed in two directions : a democratic direction which aims at equal opportunities for all students ; and an elitist one in a world governed by competition and selection. These two options, while not necessarily opposed to each other, give rise to fundamental political choices which remain conflicted. Hence a pendulum swing which, in changing political circumstances, favours one or the other tendency. Beyond these two ideological pressures one can discern a gradual shift in American schooling towards a student-focused liberalism which highlights market values.

An American’s writings : Richard Rorty, Brigitte Frelat-Kahn (IUFM of Paris)

Rorty is an American. Are Americans like Rorty ? As a pragmatist opposed to substantialism and dualism, Rorty also rejects external and transcendental constraints and stresses the contingency of every starting point. Rorty distances himself in this three-fold way from abstract European thought. This stance leads him to take up moderate positions on political and educational issues.

Pupil and citizen in the works of John Dewey, Joëlle Zask (EHESS)

For Dewey democracy is a way of life. Schooling is its beginning and its enabling condition. Schools have to play their part in social integration as well as in promoting new perspectives without which democracy could not survive. Socialisation is really individualisation in interaction with one’s social environment and learning is a function of the conflict between a current situation and the creativeness which transcends it, taking the pupil from the known to the unknown.

What is an educational ‘sphere’? Justice and education in Michael Walzer, Christian Lazerri (University of Franche-Comté)

Michael Walzer holds that there are separate spheres of justice – rather than believing in a theory of justice which, being general, cannot but be excessively abstract. A just act is one which, in the relevant sphere, and by common consent, gives each person his or her due. Education has its own sphere. Student equality, basic knowledge, the autonomy of the educational community in relation to the outside world : these are features of justice which seem to require a public service which is both robust and tolerant. Will the political sphere then destroy the sphere of education ? Not necessarily, because only the interference of other spheres in the political sphere can impugn the independence of the educational sphere.

A certain attachment : multicultural citizenship and education, Eric Dubreucq (IUFM of Basse-Normandie)

In looking at the relationships between education and multiculturalism, it is useful to take account of the main works written on this topic and on ways of introducing these ideas into France – in the context, that is, of the opposition between ‘republicans’ and ‘democrats’ – which does not map exactly on to the distinction between liberals and communitarians. It is this latter contrast which informs the work of Will Kymlicka, whose main arguments are examined in this essay. Multiculturalism, as he defines it, is relevant to two aspects of schooling in France : on the one hand, institutions and the principles which underlie them ; and on the other, the sort of citizen which education should aim at promoting. This essay tries to pinpoint the key problems at the root of the various French positions, as well as the relationships between these and the philosophy of multiculturalism. The most problematic area has to do with the kind of citizen (rational and abstract or culturally embedded) which the school should help to shape, and with that citizen’s relationship to the culture. Here Will Kymlicka’s model of democratic citizenship is discussed in relation to the Council of Europe’s thinking on education for citizenship.

On some historical echoes in Habermas’s critique of Rawls, Stéphane Haber (University of Franche-Comté)

Habermas and Rawls, each of whose ideas can be traced back to Hegel, both agree on the definition of the modern legal and political subject. The latter is a communal creature, the community in question permitting rather than hindering a rational reflection which might strengthen it. But Habermas thinks that Rawls’s position is too abstract, its idealised definition of justice creating a gulf between economics and politics. The philosopher’s idealistic thesis is out of touch with real life contexts in which, for flesh and blood people, a theology of consent is always at work in communication among them.

Confronting conflict and moral ambiguity (translated and presented by Sylvie Bach), David B. Wong (University of Brandeis)

Does the plurality of beliefs in a multicultural society inevitably lead to intolerance ? Via an analysis of moral conflicts, David Wong suggests an alternative in the shape of ‘accommodation’. First, in what conditions is it possible to speak of moral conflict ? Within any society, beliefs and moral principles are widely shared. Conflicts among them are apparent only on the periphery, or in different perceptions of how principles are to be applied. One often realises that other people can come to the same sorts of conclusion as oneself, but in the circumstances in which they find themselves make different choices. Being attached to acommon rationality does not imply always making the same decisions. Accommodation can therefore itself become a moral goal : showing that one is willing to live with others despite moral differences from them. Putting an end to a conflict situation is not then a matter of deciding who is right and who is wrong, but of resorting to a kind of ‘arbitration’ which aims at reconciliation rather than convergence on shared beliefs. True, one could always prefer another way through which privileges the accceptance of a common set of rules over reconciliation. But the principle of ‘accommodation’ has the advantage that it is applicable even where disagreement about principles is irremediable : it is in any case hard to attach much moral value to highlighting disagreement. A case study of Japan shows how well societies can function on the lines suggested.

Studies : A discussion of schooling in Algeria, Lamria Chetouani (IUFM de Bretagne, CNRS)

Failure at school is widespread in Algeria. This gives rise to animated debates. A study of the language and arguments found in them reveals the confrontation of two social philosophies. One is built around nostalgia and conservatism, arguing in favour of arab-islamic authenticity and national identity. The other is attached to modernity, progress and universal values. The author discusses ambiguities in key words such as ‘arabisation’, ‘algerianisation’, ‘democratisation’ and ‘scientific spirit’, which have played such a part in the discourse of successive reform movements.