Robert Redeker interviewed by Patrice de Méritens for Le Figaro
Translation: Edward Shilling/The Europeans
The school applies itself to erasing French civilization
FIGAROVOX/INTERVIEW : By no longer fulfilling its traditional function of transmission, the school of the Republic has become a mass producer of zombies and deracinated individuals, explains the philosopher in The Fantom School, a trenchant essay in which he analyses the causes of this disaster and plots the course for the future.
Robert Redeker is a philosopher of clear mind and cutting prose. He has paid for it with ten years removed from the world, under the protection of a personal bodyguard, following a famous article in which he denounced islamist intimidations. The author of numerous works, he has never ceased to publish in retirement. Today, he delivers a terrible report on what has become of French schools. Crisis in teaching, crisis in education, crisis in life. In his view, there can be no school without devoting thought to Man, society, and national identity: all notions that have been shattered since 1981.
LE FIGARO : Hasn’t the question of the school taken on a quasi-ontological aspect in our troubled era?
Robert Redeker : The school of the Republic is a village Potemkin, a propaganda smokescreen encouraging the belief that there still exists behind the word what the French actually suppose their school to be. For example, there is a whole propaganda campaign that tries to make us believe, despite blinding evidence to the contrary, that the baccalauréat is a diploma at a level that still makes intellectual demands. The word has been rescued, but the reality has been emptied out. The school in France has been assassinated; a ghost of what it once was now carries its name. We should name the assassins. Pedagogism, with the damned soul of Philippe Meirieu at its head, and in his pay the whole institutional bureaucracy. Najat Vallaud-Belkacem [Minister of Education], with her college reform policies, has put the finishing touches to the murder of the Republic’s schools with a rage few could muster.
Manufacturing ignoramuses by substituting “learning how to learn” for teaching, is from now on the practice of our school system.
Teaching should be resolutely retrospective, said Alain. It prepares for the future only when it plunges the pupil into the past. The school should not explicitly be a vector of progress (social, human, political), but of conservation, which depends on the transmission of content. Because since 1981 [when Mitterrand became president of France – Ed.], with reform after reform, the school has never ceased to distance itself from its raison d’être. It refuses from now on to transmit knowledge, especially literary knowledge, becoming in Jean-Claude Michéa’s formula, an instrument for “the teaching of ignorance”. Manufacturing ignoramuses by substituting “learning how to learn” for teaching, is from now on the practice of our school system.
The school should not explicitly be a vector of progress, but of conservation, which depends on the transmission of content.
Willed, planned, organized, this destruction obstinately pursues an anthropological goal: the fabrication of the New Man, the replacement of the type of man that has existed in the European nations for centuries with a previously unknown type. An extra-territorial, deracinated man; a zombie exhausted by stupidity; a man who is interchangeable with any and all of the other men on the planet. A man just as abstract as a number: Indeterminate Man. A man rendered equivalent to all other men, by a conflation of equality and equivalence. This perspective can be seen in all the recent reforms, since in order to realize it, the younger generation’s access to high culture had to be blocked; the time given to propaganda for this anthropological transformation had to be increased: for example, by means of programmes such as the “ABC of Equality”. The remarks of Najat Vallaud-Belkacem always make this ambition clear: change the man, change the woman; let the new man and the new woman emerge.
Where is this political will leading?
The contemporary school is governed by the will to substitute society for the nation and people. Society in the place of the hated nation! Society in the place of the scorned people! This school wants to engender a society of equivalents – not equals – who need neither heritage nor History, or roots; whose culture is no better than mass culture, that is, general ignorance productive only of dullness. The reforms of the college foster the creation of precisely this type of society. The dismantling of teaching materials in favour of interdisciplinary education, and the abandonment of systematic education, threaten to produce intellectually disorganized people.
The school wants to engender a society of equivalents – not equals – who need neither heritage nor History, or roots; whose culture is no better than mass culture.
All of these reforms obstruct the initial role of the school: to preserve civilization. Let’s be clear about what we mean here: French civilization, the French type of man and woman, the French way of living in the world, of being human, the love of fine language, the attention given to words, to speaking well. The reforms apply themselves to liquidating what little is left of French civilization in teaching. The will to transform society is accompanied by the will to erase French civilization. In order to detach the children of France from the land of France, from its history, because land and history in France are the same thing, the Ministry of Education has delocalized the scenery on the covers of reading primers. In the region of Toulouse, children learn to read with a book called Zékéyé and the Python, in which the principal character, the eponymous little boy, lives in Cameroon. It comes strongly recommended by all the inspectors, the zealous subalterns charged with enforcing the compliance of headmasters with the official ideology. This displacement of scene tears children from their country in order to block the inheritance of history and culture, which in turn obviates the risk of their taking root in said history and culture.
How to explain this destructive tenacity? By the sobbing of the white teacher, scholastic version of the sobbing White Man, as elucidated by Pascal Bruckner. Repentance, which powers the warping of school curricula, barely masks hatred. The hatred of a section of youth for French civilization is shared by a faction of the political and administrative elites, by show-business, and alas, by some teachers. With their present curricula, based on the shame of being French, the schools perpetuate this hatred. By preaching the guilt of the Occident, by sacrificing the great figures of French history, the schools block any possible fusion between France and its youth, and thereby involuntarily prepare the nest for terrorism.
What’s your cultural diagnosis of the last few decades?
The vulgarity of mind, which makes itself felt everywhere, up to the highest levels of the state, when Madam Minister of Education speaks of “lavatory noises”; on public television, when an ignorant entertainer on We Never Sleep falsely asserts on the programme that Descartes took refuge in Holland to escape the religious persecution of catholics, – without anyone so much as coughing. This epidemic of vulgarity, corollary of the double tsunami – that of ignorance and triviality – reflects the crisis in the schools.
The French no longer speak French. Just listen to them in the street. It’s enough to hear them on the radio, or to lend an ear to the chatter of politicians. [President] Hollande expresses himself in a rickety sort of French, with a limited vocabulary and elementary grammar, broadcasting faults and crass references (as for example, his habit of doubling the subject). The French language has been replaced little by little by its ersatz, a false French, a language of the supermarket and airport. The schools are responsible for this disaster. There is a link between language and thought. When one speaks and writes badly, poorly, chaotically, one thinks and writes badly, poorly, chaotically. Poverty of language entails poverty of thought. The weakening of the teaching of the French language entails the stultification of the French. This stultification is willed by the schools. Because of the betrayal of the schools, we risk becoming a race of Pokemon-chasers!
The most significant phenomenon, symptom of all the crises, index to decay, horoscope of the descent into barbarism, is the dying of the French language. The lost language! The language that the schools refuse to teach seriously. […] This impoverishment is the sad result of the school of the Republic!
What are your thoughts on the teaching of Arabic from the first class of elementary school?
Its most likely effect will be to maintain in France a parallel nation, outside the history of the country, outside its culture, indeed in rebellion against this history and culture. Teaching Arabic is not going to eradicate the hatred of France and its culture that one notices in one part of the population; but on the contrary (just like teaching the history of France’s African empire), is just going to keep it going and stir it up. In order to assimilate, you need to let go of your origins without a second thought. The teaching of Arabic goes in the opposite sense. It would be far more intelligent to teach Latin and Greek from first year elementary school, as well as those voices of the national genius that are the regional languages.
Who currently holds power in education?
Rather than actual personages, the truth is: ideology. Poststructuralist ideology, that of the ‘French Theory’ and American cultural studies, sometimes called ‘gauchisme chic‘. It’s an undigestible magma of clichés about minorities, of compassion for victims, of hatred for high culture, and of repentance. Through this lens, the goal of the school is no longer the transmission of knowledge, of national heritage, but the redressing of ethnic inequalities and the promotion of minorities. That is, to construct the framework for “living together”…. For the first time, a minister has entered into perfect nuptials with this ideology. It’s as if Najat Vallaud-Belkacem had been exuded by this ideology, as though she were the human incarnation of it.
Hasn’t the Right also taken part in this demolition job?
Encephalogram flat-line: the Right has not a single thought on the school. It is interested only in costs. Even when in power, it leaves it to the Left to direct educational ideology. Both Left and Right drain the métier of the professor of all intellectual content, in order to change him into a social worker, an assistant psychologist, a socio-cultural coordinator. Both Right and Left no longer want professors to teach. As the professors confirm. One would like […] them to be as ignorant as their students. […].
What are your remedies, and what is your vision of the future?
The purpose assigned to the school today is priming for vivre-ensemble [living together]. This is a war machine tilted against national brotherhood; it is anti-republican. It leads, as attested by the ideas on history held by Najat Vallaud-Belkacem and cited in my book, to educational clientelism split down communitarian lines, conforming to some semblance of the politics carried on by the Parti socialiste, the politics of ethno-sexual minorities. Fraternity cleaves together; vivre-ensemble cleaves apart. Vivre-ensemble is promoted in the same degree as the idea of France is rejected. While vivre-ensemble remains to be organized, nothing more can be taught. Ignorance and the scholastic void illustrate perfectly the central destructive role of vivre-ensemble. Vivre-ensemble not only destroys fraternity in preparation for an anti-fraternal society; it destroys education in its entirety, that is, knowledge and culture.
The mission of the school is to give to each child the heritage to which he has a right, that of culture, that of history. Children should leave school as inheritors. But, for ideological reasons, the school of today’s Republic deliberately fabricates the disinherited.
The mission of the school is to give to each child the heritage to which he has a right, that of culture, that of history.
What to do? Re-establish the general culture, which is anathema to the system because it makes it less malleable. The spirit is a bone, said Hegel; something that props up everything else. Something, as the case of Solzhenitsyn shows, that cannot be reduced to cinders. The general culture is the spirit in the sense used here, a bone. This horizon involves the re-establishment of Latin and Greek, history, the systematic teaching of French; the return to favour of logical and grammatical analysis; and giving proper place to the learning of poetry by heart. In other words, develop, by way of history and literature, an education that inculcates a love of French civilization.
«L’Ecole fantôme», by Robert Redeker. Editions Desclée de Brouwer, 208 p., 17,90 €.