Government through Culture and the Contemporary French Right by J. Ahearne

By J. Ahearne

Culture, understood widely, lay on the center of contrasting right-wing options for presidency in France throughout the pivotal decade of 2002-2012. problems with secularism, schooling, televisual functionality, public reminiscence and nation-branding Ahearne analyses how presidents Chirac and Sarkozy sought to redefine modern French identity.

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89–108), it was intended to bring all French pupils between the ages of 11 and 15 through a broad ‘common trunk’ or shared curriculum. However, as we shall see, its status during the subsequent four decades was never clearly assured, caught between injunctions to guarantee a certain bedrock (socle) of enduring republican identity and pressures to adapt to segregative social and economic demands. In particular, it would during the period 2002–2012 become an object of persistent cultural and political dissensus.

In view of the successful democratization of our education system, we must, given the heterogeneity of its pupils [ . . ], reassert our will to transmit to all a common culture, a foundation of key theoretical, reflexive and practical skills. (quoted in Lelièvre, 2004, p. 97) The education minister of the time, François Bayrou, gave no official heed to this suggestion, but the theme continued to resurface. The Fauroux report of 1996 recommended that ‘the education system and all its users come together to draw up a set of benchmark skills [‘un référentiel de compétences’] specifying an obligation for schooling to produce results that can sit alongside the obligation for pupils to attend school’ (Fauroux & Chacornac, 1996, p.

Thélot, 2004, p. 49) The report clearly bears the mark of members of the commission who were long-standing advocates from that common culture movement, such as Claude Lelièvre and François Dubet – indeed some passages read like extended indirect quotations from Dubet’s own work (see, for example, Dubet, 2004, p. 53; Thélot, 2004, p. 43). And one can understand why some members of the commission were irritated and considered resigning when, in the midst of their final deliberations on the question of this common culture, the minister Fillon abruptly announced the move evoked above towards ‘increased and more explicit’ forms of ‘diversification’ in collège (Laronche, 2004).

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