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  1. The French army and the values of the Republic: on military entrism in education | openDemocracy
  2. KIZEO FORMS
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  5. French Crash Course

But is laicity a prerequisite for overcoming the present crises, including that in education? The problems faced by France are in no ways inherent in laicity, argued L. Can a focus on the values of the Republic achieve more than this French version of secularism?

On the one hand, academics and associations have fought against the diffusion through the education system of the reactionary values suggested by the exam question. On the other hand, military elites have been working towards them, aiming to use education to promote a new common sense bridging of the institutional ethics of the military and corporations.

In this article, I bring these two bodies together, knowing that there is little chance that we would catch them in direct debate, or if it were to happen, that they would ever shift their positions. Instead I turn to two events, strangely enough, only a week apart.


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The first was a conference critical of the brevet question at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales on 14 March. Rather than analyse either conference per se , I will set their arguments against each other, to better understand the wider social and political dynamics currently at play in France. Having the conference at the Sorbonne on the fiftieth anniversary of the protest events of and holding it in the sumptuous Grand Amphitheatre points to a tide of change.

At the conference, state officials, essayists, high ranking military officers and corporate leaders interviewed by journalists in four roundtables, discussed the ways civil society and the military community might come together to defend the values of the Republic. Leading the way towards collaboration between the civil and the military worlds, including the contiguous army-tutoring and university-military school St.

Cyr relationship, the conference reflected a lightening of attitude towards the French army since the Algerian war. As pointed out by C. Coton at the EHESS conference regarding the brevet question specifically, a challenge easily applicable to the Sorbonne conference, military officers take hold of a particular world view, diffuse it through partnerships and elevate the military institution through discussions of values, such as fraternity, equal opportunity and merit, presenting the army as akin to a school — and even emancipatory.

They build on the idea that the homeland is under attack and requires further integration. And what better way to achieve cogent integration than to transmit values through education? National cohesion, heritage and the army can ensure this defence. The defence of French values requires integration the vivre ensemble as a pragmatic step of the administrative state to secure the future , and this can be achieved by investing in and transmitting values based on ethics, in military operations, and also as everyday moral values through education.

As suggested by General de Villiers at the Sorbonne conference, a personal ethic built on the corporate model of individual happiness can also be associated with the fraternity of arms. The ethics of hierarchical command, comprising honour, humility and heroism, is expressed in French corporations i. R de Bezier. At the core of this Sorbonne debate was the idea that military action, through the exemplarity of soldiering and leadership, the risk-taking and winning, inspires the values it defends and is not merely informed by them.

By taking significant risks, it overcomes in a time of terror when victory over the jihadist enemy has proved difficult.

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The French army and the values of the Republic: on military entrism in education | openDemocracy

Its victory extends to the conquered domain, with Africans urged to create their own armies. Throughout the examples cited, impunity due to internal preferential treatment was flagrant, especially since the Law on Military Programming denied the possibility for civil parties to engage in judiciary action against military infractions committed in external operations or in special forces operations classified Secret Defence. Thanks to impunity and secrecy, the French military and military institutions more generally remain unpunished for crimes committed.

Only international justice can remedy the situation. This danger is heightened by the institutional centrality of the military, C. Decisions on army engagements are made not by the Parliament but by the President in Defence Council art. Moreover, there are no precise definitions of an external operation art. Military-corporate values were referred to throughout the Sorbonne conference as educational tools. Leadership ethics and discipline rely on an exemplary leading figure and its imitation, while the practice of camaraderie transforms values into virtues.

Obedience to values and to the hierarchy will eventually turn disintegration into integration, with a convergence of values between school and family. For the integration of adult youth in difficulty, the army has developed the Adapted overseas Military Service. Further, the military can work with schools to develop civil instruments to train youth for a smooth integration into companies or the military. Schools like Esperance, under the watchful eye of military directors, can instil values — academic, educational and integrative — to teenage youths, providing the respectful understanding of public order they are thought to need.

And cooperation between the military school St. Cyr and advanced schools of commerce can enhance these common values. Cyr students in uniform.

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Laurens, assistant professor and co-organiser of the conference, argued for the study of the military and military elites as an independent topic, not subject to military and strategic preoccupations or funding. Independent studies, they argued, like C.

Despite its open recruitment, and its bid to help youth succeed in integrating, military institutions reproduce the domination of the ruling order. Valorisation of combat experience may give an impression of advancement among officers not trained at St.

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Cyr, when in fact, they are all too often easily discredited, for example by being given the command of units of instruction, rather than of combat — the latter commonly reserved for St. Cyr graduates. Moisan, co-organiser and campaign coordinator for Survie. The brevet question urges us to look at the way paths are constructed in history, and tie together army and nation, foregrounding the family and the child as the target of army and corporations alike.

Taking the African detour can reroute and decolonise education.

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Consider if the brevet question had been put to people in Africa, those protesting in the streets of Abidjan against the French army, or to college children in Tchad or to Tchadiens, more generally, said M. Debos and N. So how transcendent and noble are the values of the Republic when they render destruction and domination incarnate and set out to achieve an obedience that simply reproduces the same schemes?


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The story begins in the year , when this young man is undertaking a lone hiking trip through Provence , France, and into the Alps , enjoying the relatively unspoiled wilderness. The narrator runs out of water in a treeless, desolate valley where only wild lavender grows and there is no trace of civilization except old, empty crumbling buildings. The narrator finds only a dried-up well, but is saved by a middle-aged shepherd who takes him to a spring he knows of.

Curious about this man and why he has chosen such a lonely life, the narrator stays with him for a time. The shepherd, after being widowed, has decided to restore the ruined landscape of the isolated and largely abandoned valley by single-handedly cultivating a forest, tree by tree. The narrator leaves the shepherd and returns home, and later fights in the First World War.

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In , shell-shocked and depressed after the war, the man returns. He is surprised to see young saplings of all forms taking root in the valley, and new streams running through it where the shepherd has made dams higher up in the mountain. The narrator makes a full recovery in the peace and beauty of the regrowing valley, and continues to visit Bouffier every year.

Bouffier is no longer a shepherd, because he is worried about the sheep affecting his young trees, and has become a bee keeper instead. Over four decades, Bouffier continues to plant trees, and the valley is turned into a kind of Garden of Eden.

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By the end of the story, the valley is vibrant with life and is peacefully settled. The valley receives official protection after the First World War the authorities mistakenly believe that the rapid growth of this forest is a bizarre natural phenomenon, as they are unaware of Bouffier's selfless deeds , and more than 10, people move there, all of them unknowingly owing their happiness to Bouffier. The narrator tells one of his friends in the government the truth about the natural forest, and the friend also helps protect the forest.

The narrator visits the now very old Bouffier one last time in In a hospice in Banon , in , the man who planted trees peacefully passes away. Certainly, Giono lived during this time. While he was alive, Giono enjoyed allowing people to believe that the story was real, and considered it as a tribute to his skill. His daughter, Aline Giono, described it as "a family story for a long time". However, Giono himself explained in a letter to an official of the city of Digne :.