WARNING from the authors

" We live in a world where we must wait for the sugar to melt "

... Henri BERGSON...

" But it’s not forbidden to stir the spoon "

... Remy CHAUVIN...

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To the reader,

 We don't introduce ourselves yet as the authors... actors... or organizers of this book. We will appear progressively, like all others protagonists, in a collective endeavor.

And you, the reader, we don't know you. It is somewhat dangerous to write without targeting our victims.

You might, of course, be one of the few thousands people who lived a little or a lot such or such flap of this story, or we could have cited you like other witnesses of the adventure. We don't privilege you as this first public...

We attack the... public. At least we want to But, let's think for a sec before expressing what we expect from you! The least hazardous method would define the various targets according to their reaction in response to the topics discussed. Let's try...

Teaching, education would, in principle, summon everybody, at the risk of seeing ears being plugged and hands closing this book with a shrug. Let's target better!

What do you, the Young People, think of mandatory teaching, this wonderful centennial conquest of secularism over obscurantism? No much, except that the school made you lose the most beautiful years of life, right?

Current teachers, do you have an optimistic vision of your vocation? Do you see yourselves capable to lead youngsters to a happy life, to the joy of learning for oneself, and to a citizen's democratic conscience?

Finally for you, parents, does the schooling process proposed to your offspring build his/her dreamed future, or does it degenerate in a desperate nightmare?

In short, the school failures touching so many students, amounts to the failure of our schools, and therefore of the society of which school should build the future...

What’s left of the large and long-lasting teachers strikes of 1990 and 1996? Where will the student movement that shocked the graduate schools lead? Our undertaking presents a problem that touches a large public which may become interested in it.

Reader, we don't plan to spare you. One doesn't write, one doesn't communicate his ideas and his experiences to please. For example, if you, dear reader, are an adept of the elitist culture, of the so-called general culture, or a partisan of the servile preparation of youth to the rat race "subway - work- sleep", you are especially targeted.

If, on the contrary, you seek to change things, you may become angry at us, because we throw a cruel truth at your face: do it yourself in spite of anything and everything. Like very nice and respectable organizations do, it’s not enough to organize surveys and symposia on teaching problems, to produce well structured curricula, or to even spread out some progressive educational projects. The living-room pedagogy quickly demobilizes militants self-satisfied of their good conscience.

Is there any choice between ideologists who extol a revolution to change the school and therefore favor that it doesn't change, and those who, like ILITCH, dream about changing the society through "revolutionizing" the school system? History shows both theses two options leading to nothing.

If, finally, you belong to the last reader category, to that silent majority, to that herd always tired to live, our intention is to wake you up a bit.

But who are we to dare treating so harshly our potential readers? Hung up dissidents, belated sixty-eighters, neurotic revolutionaries?

We are, of course, spiritual disciples of Ovide DECROLY, Isabelle GATTI de GAMOND, Célestin FREINET, Francesco FERRER, Alexander SUTHERLAND NEILL and of others. All teachers should build their vocation on the work of these pedagogues like a physicist prolongs NEWTON, like a geographer inherits from Elysée RECLUS, like a musician lives in the counterpoint of J.S. BACH...

We are among their successors, the witnesses of one fertile time in educational experience, the second half of our century - more precisely between 1955 and 1990 - that goes from the after the war reconstruction to the disillusion of the crisis.

Teachers, students, parents all dreamed about making an efficient, democratic, happy school. The word revolution - which always brings fear - is not too big to tell about the saga of this active and courageous minority that never waits for “the sugar to melt" for “stirring the spoon.”

Since their first experiences, our actors understood that the school system could not answer their hopes. Therefore, they have chosen to work outside of the school, nearby, risking to come back in when the system would have given them an opportunity to do so (while toying, for instance, with the hope of renovating it). The word parascholar has been long known from every one. For them it has – or has had – a more precise meaning that we will explain... So they created the parascholar (the prefix para also meaning against the school) organizations and even a national youth movement to attack schools from outside. A foot outside, a foot inside. Hopping?

Good for them for undertaking and succeeding in it. Succeeding in what? The recipes invented at that time were not necessarily bad. Maybe they didn't go far enough? Or the opposite?

It so happens that some people are, as one says, in advance on their time. For them it is a very satisfying and, at the same time, a very intolerable situation. Others have them pay for it. Did they live their saga for nothing? It is the testimony of some fifty actors that we present to you. You will discover them little by little in this collective book, while also discovering the “authors organizers.”.. They intervene directly, by interview or by writing with us episodes of the epic. And we create the historic dimension by reprinting dozens of publications published over nearly forty years of educational ebullition.

They won battles for the progress of education. They changed habits, resuscitated schools. But they lost the revolution.

People blamed them for 30 years for going too fast and too far.

Rubbish! The decrepitude of schools at this century's end indicates that it was necessary to do more and faster.

85% of the time spent, of the intelligence, of the efforts, of the days and moons that the protagonists of this saga lived, consisted in resisting to reactionaries, to fools, to traditionalists, to lazy people. The 15% left made them happy, efficient, progressive and hardly tired. Did they win or loose this scholastic “guerrilla" nonetheless undertaken under favorable historic circumstances?

Here is a Binding principle with those who restart. The continuous struggle.

It even happens that institutions, schools, realize that they are getting out of the pack of educational misery. Our witnesses have lived happy in these Temples where teaching became a game, and where learning began to look like joy, where directing provided happiness. Then, these schools approached, consulted, helped each others, or at least the minority of progressive actor within them. This proliferation even forced authorities to install some prudent reforms.

A young school was blooming during that moment: the Ganshoren middle school. And an old school, impossible to circumvent in this saga, one of the first royal (public) high school, well-known for its quality and its rebellious side became a parascholar and Renovated "dangerous germ". On September 29, 1989 the Athénée Royal of Ixelles (known as "Rabelais") was closed. Five hundred people attended the funeral-show on the theme: " Requiem for a school, requiescat for ideas.”

Dear reader, the curtain rises in the courtyard, 17 rue de l’Athénée. Join us for the show...

 

The seven authors - organizers and the team of eighty collaborators.

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