Issue n° 24

Opening : (Extra)ordinary lessons, Claudine Blanchard-Laville (University of Nanterre)

Letter : Teaching painting today, Jean Ferlicot

Are there basic requirements in the education of a painter like grammar in the case of literature and musical theory in that of music? If so, should this take place in the studio and focus on the transmission of know-how? The author also sees pictorial art as expressive of unconscious powers and the rhythms of nature. In teaching painting, how can one ensure a balance between reflection on formal organisation and letting the pupil have freedom of expression? J. Ferlicot thinks that the ideas of Kandinsky and of the Bauhaus point the way forward.

Notion : Trust, Laurence Cornu (IUFM Poitou-Charentes)

Trust is a fact of human nature and some of its manifestations contain relationships and actions which are emancipatory. Trust cannot be enjoined either by moral or by technical imperatives. But it is part of our experience and as such we can reflect on the paradoxes of its modes of operation from several points of view (sociological, ethico-political, anthropological, epistemological), given that it is at work, just like mistrust, in social, including trans-generational, relationships. The notion raises questions about the status of unforeseeable factors in our experience and in our ideals, and can thus stimulate thought about both school education and teacher education.

Report: Description of ordinary classrooms

Presentation, François Jacquet-Francillon (University of Lille III, INRP)

Looking at lycée classes – between ordinary and extraordinary experience, Michèle Guigue (University of Lille III)

Looking for ‘ordinary’ experience in lycée classes runs the risk of getting submerged in a mass of details or losing one’s way in an undifferentiated flow of events. Michele Guigue overcomes this problem by careful attention to subtle differences, gradually delineating a new, almost ungraspable, kind of ethnological subject-matter: the high points in the life of a school class. These are characterised on the one hand by their affective colouring and on the other by their intellectual quality.

Teacher authority as seen from the staff room, Martine Kherroubi (Cerlis, Paris V, CNRS)

Based on her fieldwork in a college, Martine Kherroubi outlines the difficulties which teachers face arising from the different ways they participate in institutional life. The social life of the staff room, in particular, tellingly reveals new aspects of professional practice: the induction of younger colleagues, the authority of the older pillars of the establishment, informal meetings of different kinds, more institutionalised collaborative work, exchanges of information about classes and pupils…the analysis reveals that these types of social phenomena – which are scarcely noticeable, yet have considerable normative influence – are key factors in the everyday work of the teacher.

What do they do in class? From interaction to work, Anne Barrère (University of Lille III)

Although pupils and teachers share the space of the classroom as a common site for their work, their activity is not reducible to a pedagogical encounter squarely based on their interaction. One can also conceptualise it in terms of two sets of tasks carried out in parallel, the classroom being a space within which each party has very different priorities and where discrepancies between the latter can generate misunderstandings. The daily life of the class can then be investigated from the point of view of the routine work that takes place in it and the ways in which each party subjectively engages in it.

Written work and pupils’ exercise books: some thoughts about a long-standing set of practices, Anne-Marie Chartier (INRP)

How did schoolwork take place in the past? Historians of education have access, among other things, to an unusual kind of source: pupils’ pieces of work and exercise books. Three historiographical approaches to these are possible: teachers’ written accounts of lessons, records of students’ achievements, and eyewitness accounts of learning in practice. In each of these dimensions Anne-Marie Chartier produces one example to do with elite education and another from mass education. But the type of schoolwork and the constraints within which it is set are affected by the kind of supporting structures that are in place. It is with this in mind that the author examines the institution of the ‘day book’ (‘cahier du jour’) in primary schools during the Third Republic. These constituted a kind of collective memory of the class’s work, a witness of pupil progress. What attitude should we adopt today to these day books and files and rough copies and sheaves of notes? On the one hand we can learn about the methodical organisation of learning; on the other we should remember that a whole other dimension of classroom activity has left no trace at all.

Teachers and travellers’ children in lorry schools: an account of an unrecognised mode of schooling, Delphine Bruggeman (University of Paris V)

The schooling of travellers’ children has unusual features when compared with ordinary schooling: its itinerant lorry schools, its own peculiar rhythm and temporality, its confined yet open space. Delphine Bruggeman is conducting ethnographical research on this in the Lille region. In the travellers’ camps a new routine is emerging and new rituals are being established, but they are still connected to familiar norms and symbols like satchels and exercise books. The families take advantage of the system but they also have to work within its constraints. In this way the dynamics of the travellers’ culture come into contact with those of a school culture designed to accommodate it.

Studies : Bouvard and Pécuchet or the inability to think things out, Michel Fabre (University of Nantes)

Flaubert’s novel presents us with a boundless thirst for knowledge that runs into the buffers. The reasons for this are complex, revolving around the stupidity of two men. Each move they make degenerates into sinister farce, into an encyclopaedic obsession which churns on endlessly and fruitlessly – without rhyme or reason, without critical awareness. For Michel Fabre this is a perfect illustration of ‘one-dimensional’ thinking which piles up fact after fact, gets lost in inessentials, merely reproduces what is there and so debars itself from reflecting on it. The author cites Deleuze and Bachelard to show how the epistemic thrust of Bouvard and Pécuchet consists in the distinction it makes between sense and nonsense, thus pointing to features which are common to all kinds of learning.

Studies : Nature and education in Durkheim, Sophie Jankélévitch (IUFM of Versailles)

Education would be pointless if a human being’s social nature were already given in his or her innate constitution; and it would be impossible if this social nature were entirely lacking in it. Durkheim seems to be torn between the need to justify educational activity – which serves to highlight the division between society and the individual – and the need to guarantee its possibility – which serves to blur this division. Indeed, his thought oscillates between two barely compatible conceptions of education, one as the realisation of a natural disposition, the other as the superimposition of a social mode of existence on an egoistical one. This raises the questions whether the latter, seen from the social perspective, is no more than a sort of residual phenomenon which is impervious to socialisation, and whether education can be any more than a fragile barrier built to contain the centrifugal force of individuality within the social framework.