17th December 2008

I see that French teachers and students are revolting again! Faced with this unrest, Nicolas Sarkozy has backtracked on his flagship education reforms. He had such high hopes of making sweeping changes to the school curricula, but in the wake of recent street violence in Athens, he was fearful of that happening in Paris also. So Education Minister Xavier Darcos announced on Monday he was delaying for a year a broad overhaul of the school curriculum, a move seen as the first major retreat from reform since Sarkozy took office in May 2007.
I was put in mind of protests in the UK a few decades ago. It's as if people sometimes get bored of the everyday grind and need something to fire them up. I was intrigued to see that, despite France's capitulation with this latest wave of education protests, Parisians had already been so worked up they couldn't stop the momentum and went ahead with the protest anyway!! So, scheduled nationwide marches still happened, with violent protests spreading to Brest, Rennes and Lille. It's not that I'm diminishing in any way one's right to comment on issues that impinge on your life and career. Rather, it's more that because these northern cities are struggling with so much economic hardship, it would only take a small match to light the flame of unrest amongst people who are looking for someone to blame. Then, it becomes less of an educational issue and more of an anarchist's fieldday. There are trouble-makers everywhere just looking for something - it doesn't matter what - to drive a nail into the democracy they hate.
I do hope that, because of the similarities with the 1929 economic collapse, Europe isn't heading for more and more conflicts. Just when we were beginning to settle down here......

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