“The school is probably at a crossroads in its existence”

This column appears in “The World of Education”. If you subscribe to Le Monde, you can subscribe to this weekly newsletter by following this link.

What future for the school? The question is not surprising. First of all because, even if the decision-making power is probably in other hands, a new Minister of National Education is making his comeback. Then, because the President of the Republic had outlined, on June 2, 2022, in Marseille, the outlines of “the school of the future”, which he has since clarified to get straight to the point, on June 27, still in Marseille. Finally, because some, less and less of a minority, think that the boat is sinking. Even the once most optimistic observers have become worried.

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As with global warming, the human species is unique in that it only becomes aware of the seriousness of the problem when it finds itself on the edge of the abyss. When it comes to school, have we come to such an end? Possibly, if only to judge by the enthusiasm of a certain type of population for private education without contract, education which would offer not only content responding to a demand but even more a philosophy of education in line with the moral and intellectual values ​​that these parents hope to find and that they despair of seeing, according to them, disappear from public schools and, this is new, also from the private sector under contract.

Several explanations for this. One of them is still rarely highlighted. In numericus, the coming “civilization” (Albin Michel, September 2022), Daniel Cohen, recently deceased economist, explains that there are four possible human societies, depending on whether they are vertical or horizontal, that is to say organized according to hierarchical or egalitarian principles. Added to this is submission to divine or scientific laws, in other words depending on whether the societies are religious or secular. Four combinations are then possible.

Only one has never happened on Earth: a horizontal and secular society. “It is of this last type that the digital society is giving birth, in the greatest pain”, writes Daniel Cohen. This horizontality is made fully possible by access to digital, social networks in mind, and the erasure of what were called intermediary bodies. All that was missing was this evolution to combine with Western authorities who, from religious, have become secular.

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