Alain Bentolila

Putting Our Schools First Publication date : August 30, 2007

“Our schoolteachers' main task should be to teach intellectual integrity, i.e. an attachment to the truth and the skill to separate it from lies, and a preference for analysis over anathema, respect over contempt, rational discussion over blows. It is certainly not a few artificial, pathetic civics classes that will teach our students intellectual integrity.

“Such an ambitious project requires profound changes: in teacher training, staff and school architecture. Above all, it demands a new pact of mutual trust between schoolteachers and the nation, based on priorities that are to be defined collectively. Let us pledge to give all students the intellectual tools that will allow them to reject fundamentalist, sectarian and totalitarian speeches and writings, to rebuff obscurantism and magic, and to distinguish between the real and the virtual,” writes Alain Bentolila.

What can be done to make the defence of reason and intelligence the primary mission of French schools, in accordance with the history and traditional vocation of education in France, and in response to the current context which has been moving toward increased violence, intolerance and irrationality?

The author's reflection is based on detailed knowledge of all concerned groups: schoolchildren, parents, teachers and politicians. Also included here are a number of clear, specific proposals that the author argues will save French schools.

A professor of linguistics at the University of Paris-V, Alain Bentolila is a scientific advisor for the French Observatoire National de la Lecture (national observatory of reading skills) and for the Agence Nationale de Lutte Contre l'Illetrisme (national agency to fight against illiteracy). He is the author of Tout sur l'école (2004) and Le Verbe contre la barbarie (2007), which received the France Télévision Prize.