The Principal of Laïcité
After reading this, I know you'll want to send your kids to a school like this one. From ESJ-Lille:
The principal of the Lavoisier Vocational High School in Roubaix authorizes the expression of all religions, in the name of respecting others and their beliefs. It is more than a principle, it is a method of teaching.
On a typical day, in the school yard, two students idle in the sun. One wears the veil, the other does not. A choice everyone in this school attended by disadvantaged youngsters respects. Ever since Jean-Pierre Lafage became principal ten years ago, the religions coexist peacefully in this high-school where 70% of the students are Muslim.
Note: I think we can see why the coexistence is peaceful.
Some students remove their veil on entering class. The physical education, sewing and chemistry teachers have learned to cope with the girls who wear them. The veil is simply tucked inside their blouses to avoid an accident. The students have the right to be absent on Christian, Jewish and Muslim religious holidays. Those who observe Ramadan are reimbursed the price of the cafeteria meals they do not eat. And no teacher has complained about the fasting of his students, since they appear to be "turned on by the effort."
The latest symbol of consensus: the whole high-school eats hallal in the cafeteria, including the non-Muslims. It was easier to adopt this ritualistic method of preparing meat that the other faiths can tolerate.
Note: I nearly burst out laughing when I read that. This article is serious. But don't you sense a slight tongue-in-cheek tone?
Update: February 2011 - If I laughed it was because of the idea that it was easier to give everybody halal than to accommodate individual religious dietary demands. I did not know then that this would become a universal principle in France for economic reasons - give everyone halal food, rather than spend money on special diets. That is in fact what has happened.
Through these accommodations, Jean-Pierre Lafage defends his concept of "laïcité". A modern laïcité, better adapted to society. "I am a hussar of the French Republic, but not the Third Republic! We mustn't forget that the republic of Jules Ferry was also that of colonialism, that it was not all good," he explains. "And even today we exclude people in the name of laïcité. I defend the republic of tomorrow, tolerant and multicultural. To give life to laïcité means allowing all cultures to express themselves."
In order that the mosque not be the only cultural and social reference for the youth of the neighborhood, the high-school offers classes in Arabic on weekends. And in an effort to integrate the residents of the neighborhood, the school has also hired 40 persons in difficulty, many of them mothers of the students.
Giving every culture its place has made dialogue possible.
The article tells how the Ministry of Education first opposed Lafage's initiatives, then later decided to give him a free hand. Government opposition is justified since theoretically the law of 1905 separates Church and State, and forbids religious signs or practices in the schools. This law created "laïcité" - the division of France into two spheres, religious and secular. While at one time it was shocking to see a veil in the schools, look at what has happened:
"We would be shocked if the girls were forced to remove their veil," say the students, some of whom are Catholic. "And if a new principal comes along and changes things, lots of luck to him!"
Out of the 400 Muslim girls only 5 or 6 wear the veil every year. A stable number. "I find it monstrous to exclude girls for their beliefs," the principal fulminates. "It's hypocrisy, not to say racism. Catholics don't wear veils, but their religion asks nothing of them. Whereas for a Muslim girl, it's really important. It's discrimination, pure and simple. For me, laïcité is equality."
Note: This principal has totally absorbed Sarkozy's concept of "positive laïcité", which, as we know, is a euphemism for "submission to Islam". He goes on to more wildly fallacious reasonings:
"It's easy to establish a standard and to exclude the others, but afterwards you can't complain if there is violence. To the young we say, 'You are French', but we deny them the right to be French in their way. We reproach them for everything and anything - Algeria, terrorism. Whereas to accept the other as he is, to understand what is important to him, is the best defense against extremism."
I take this to mean that we have not tried hard enough to understand the needs of the individuals who slit throats and drive bomb-rigged cars into crowds of people.
Each year a cultural week is set aside. The students themselves choose the theme. Classes are suspended and replaced by dialogue and discovery. (...) This year the theme is "understanding the world". The students were very upset by the September 11 attacks and by what is happening in the Middle East. This week they were given a chance to talk and also to realize that you can change things. When an entire people is humiliated in Palestine, it is impossible not to react.
What does THAT mean? We could speculate as follows: an entire people is humiliated, therefore, as horrible as the 9/11 attacks were, what do you expect when you humiliate people?
Now for some statistics on how "successful" this school is:
Despite a difficult social context, Lavoisier High-School can boast today of minimal violence and excellent scholastic results. In the year 2000, 100% of the students received their "bac". (i.e. the high-school diploma, known at one time for its rigor. Getting the "bac" was never an easy task, or a foregone conclusion.) And last year, two veiled girls received honorable mention. Almost a personal success for the principal. "Of course, I cannot claim that they succeeded because they were veiled. But, really, if we had upset them by making a big deal about the veils..."
In browsing the web I came upon this comment from a reader on the above article (lest you think all Frenchmen are collaborators like this loony principal):
- Can someone give me the address and phone number of this establishment? It shames France!!! Why not turn the public schools into Koranic schools while we're at it? Where will this lead? With a principal who attacks laïcité. We must do something...
Actually the principal simply redefined laïcité to suit the dictates of the times. Sarkozy was among the first (before he was president) to redefine the 1905 law and to recast laïcité into the mold of Islam.
Note: If the school functions "well" it is because it is a Muslim school, not a public school in any sense of the word. Any Catholics or Jews have to go along with it or get out. The city of Roubaix, situated near Lille and close to the Belgian border, has had a Muslim majority for many years. Apparently the social and economic inequalities are among Muslims themselves. There is a well-educated North African elite on the one hand and ghettoes and danger zones where the police do not venture on the other. If the principal of Lavoisier has succeeded it has been within the context of a Muslim city. His boasting about "all cultures expressing themselves" is nonsense, since only one culture can predominate in any successful (if you call this successful) social situation. Here, it is Islam and Maghrebin civilization that have taken over Roubaix.
Some of the above information is from Radio France.
The photo of the school shows one of those dreadful modern scuptures we see in front of many public buildings nowadays.