“Writing a text is not carrying out an exercise, it requires a commitment from the student that goes well beyond”

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

The question under debate at the start of the school year is the production of writing in primary school. The previous minister, Pap Ndiaye, had brought before public opinion the subject of the dictation, behind which loomed a larger question: entering the written word and writing. The new minister, Gabriel Attal, in his forum at Worldis more direct: we must abolish “blank texts”and ensure that “each week, students produce at least one free text”with a view to ” creativity “. THE ” free text “ is a long-criticised proposal from the pedagogue Célestin Freinet (1896-1966), and what the minister is asking for is, in essence, prescribed by the primary school programs (2015, revised in 2018). But the alert is well-founded. Because we write too little in cles.

National and international evaluations remind us of this and it happens that parents, with good reason, are moved by it. With rare exceptions, the hierarchy is disinterested in this shortage of writing and lets it happen. However, what would we say about a cl where we did not work on numbering? Staff bankruptcy, then? The difficulties with written culture, especially literary, are a reality. Recruitment matter? Not only.

What does learning to write mean? We would all be hard-pressed to give a simple answer to this question. At the risk of oversimplification, what do the programs and instructions say on the subject? The issue of the ” writing ” (1881, 1938), it is, beyond the use of language, to imilate social norms; but then it will be a question of expressing one’s sensitivity and imagination (1923, 1972); to learn to communicate (1971); to have a “regulated use of language” (1985); to implement a communication intention (1992); to imitate (2002); to acquire a “authorial posture” (2015). Responses which, for some, oppose each other, or even exclude each other; there is no stable and lasting definition of what “learning to write” is.

A literary “nourishment”

Jules Ferry wrote, in 1881, that “no teaching has such considerable importance [et] is not suffering to the same degree”. Since then, official texts have continued to remind us that learning to write is fundamental and that the school, on this level, is failing. And they demanded, just as constantly, that teachers do more in this area. In recent instructions, we wanted to impose a minimum daily writing time (1999, 2002), or a standard: that students be able to produce a text of“one to two pages” in sixth grade (2015). Gabriel Attal’s request, one text per week, goes in this direction.

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