being and knowing – Liberation

Forum live

From March 17 to March 19, 2022, the first National Assemblies of Public Education will be held in Poitiers. Political, social and cultural response to the challenges of tomorrow. The partner of the event “Liberation” will offer a round table on this topic on March 18 at 20:30. To be continued on our website.

Let’s start with a paradox. Popular education is ubiquitous in France today. In the walls of associations, on sports grounds, in houses for young workers, at the foot of buildings, in fablabs, squats, MYUK… And yet, who really knows? Or rather… who knows it as such? In a survey conducted in 2012 by the National Federation of the Franks, two-thirds of the French people surveyed admitted that they did not know which term it refers to. Ten years later, the observation remains more or less the same.

It must be said, in defense of our uncertain citizens, that this notion, beyond its old-fashioned sound, is broad and its definition general. “It is the belief that education is not limited to school time and that civil society actors have the same right as schools to participate in it,” explains Emmanuel Porte, in charge of research and research at the National Institute of Youth and Public Education. We can isolate “the two main invariants in the experiments carried out over the past two centuries, adds historian Jean-Claude Richet, promote access to culture to as many people as possible and make this access a condition of citizenship.” Everything, he adds, “through active methods that make the citizen the agent of his liberation.” “This is a pedagogy in the service of social justice, cultural democratization and the fight against exclusion,” For his part, Philippe Meyreu, researcher, answers“militant in pedagogy” and president of the Learning Centers for Active Learning Methods.

Sacred Turbulence Zone

First of all, it is a diverse and tangible reality at the level of women, men and territories. This is evidenced by the figures collected by the sociologist Francis Lebon (1). In total, there are more than 200,000 animators in France. Approximately 50,000 Bafas are issued in France every year, and the civil service reaches 80,000 young people every year. Only the extra-curricular sector of the Paris City Hall annually mobilizes 15,000 specialists. Not forgetting, at the national level, symbolic summer camps: about 1 million children a year. Everything is supported by a rich fabric of associations: the Liaison Committee for Youth Associations and Public Education stated in 2017 “more than 630,000 people’s educational associations” and “more than 6.3 million volunteers.” In short, there are people on deck.

A diverse and multiple set that is not easy to characterize. It would be possible, schematizing, to distinguish three categories, tries Francis Lebon. First, the world animation, which features the bulk of the troops. It is not very politicized and is focused primarily on children. Then the “official” sector, that is, large associations, very integrated and marked by the state. Finally, a more marginal, but very visible in the debate, popular political entity. Joyfully radical, it’s more adult-oriented.

The latter, critical of the “institutional”, in its own way contributes to the renewal of the movement. Because public education, before being revived in the late 90s, experienced a hellish zone of turbulence. “In the 70s and 80s, it was weakened by the collapse of the main ideological currents [marxisme, communisme, christianisme… ndlr] but also the liberalization of the leisure sector, which was its vanguard”, emphasizes Philip Meiry. Added to this “the growing indifference of public authorities and the progressive vassalization of entities regarded by communities as service providers.”

Political overflow

For example, the institutionalization litigation is led by members of the scop le Pavé (founded in 2007 and self-liquidated in 2014). Verdict? pop education main stream betrayed his origin, lost his autonomy and sold his soul. “Great federations have abandoned social transformation, the co-education of democracy and civic power, says Anthony Brault, co-founder of Le Pavé and now a coach. In doing so, they succumbed to the government’s leisure time policy.

The restoration of politics is also the result of a bitter failure: the failure of cultural democratization. A symbol (and scapegoat?) of the art world’s wanderings, the Avignon Festival embodies for many the class inner self, the rejection of militancy, and the instrumentalization of willing artists by political power. A criticism ardently defended by activist Frank Lepage (who politely fired us for “not to be associated directly or indirectly with the National Assemblies for Public Education” produced in partnership with Release). At a landmark “gesture conference,” this ex-Pavé, the most popular voice of the radical current, sums up the grievances: “What we call cultural democratization in our country is the idea that by throwing cultural manure on the heads of the poor, they will make them grow.” “Like Avignon and a theater that always produces more performances but always with the same audience, the elitism for all that Antoine Vitez advocates has no place,” also respects Philippe Meyriot.

Of which it should be noted that, faced with its own failures, public education has been trying for twenty years to come to terms with its ideals. “Two dynamics coexist, notes researcher Emmanuel Porte. The resurgence of traditional players who want to reconnect with the basics and the emergence of new players who take over the repository to integrate it into their software. An example of these neo-envelopes? “The Attac Movement, the Animafac student network, the Unis-Cité association, or the city’s student fund association.” Through the latter, which is “the first network of solidarity students in neighborhoods”, Every year, 8,000 young people carry out mentoring missions in 350 French territories.

Regain lost autonomy

“Fablabs, collaborative workshops, popular universities, civic initiatives for climate protection, involving or involving young people in the life of the city … Today, thousands of projects flourish outside the established framework,” also notes the historian Jean-Claude Richet, for whom the first conclusion in 2020 showed the precious presence of popular education in the territories experiencing difficulties.

What about quarrels? They do not bother the researcher Philippe Meyrier. “People’s education has always been a heterogeneous movement, a river consisting of several rivers. Scouts, communists, freemasons, social catholics, anarcho-libertarians… This multitude makes it up.”

A multiplicity that has its own work. Times are not without problems. Three issues dominate, notes Emmanuel Porte: attitude to information and knowledge; ecological transition; digital life (privacy, online citizenship, access to public services and shared culture).

Another front, more fundamental, will be to restore the famous lost autonomy. The municipalization of public education was detrimental, as was the way it was financed by delegating public service. “Tendering Operation Condemns Free Association Initiative”transcribed by Jean-Claude Richet. “This generates a commitment to outcome and budgetary pressures that are inconsistent with the ambitions of public education.”, according to Philip Meiry. Another project dedicated to the recognition of voluntary animation. Giving it a special status, in particular, would allow it to be more fairly rewarded and integrated into the test of prior learning. In order to convince public authorities, which are very moderately involved, some pedagogical work will have to be done.

(one) Between educational work and citizenship: animation and public educationSocial sphere, 2020.

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