history of a practical education in current affairs

The school press week that is organized every year allows students to become aware of the reading of newspapers, to hear journalists talk about their profession and to understand the interest of a pluralistic press. By Laurence Corroy, University Professor, University of Lorraine.

It is also an opportunity to discover the productions of the students and the media that they develop in their establishments. On the occasion of an exhibition on the high school press, organized at the Maison de la Radio, we return to some of the highlights of its history. Over the course of two centuries of existence, these media are, in fact, a mirror of young people’s concerns and their relationship with current affairs, politics and the world around them.

High school newspapers appeared as early as the 1820s. We have proof of this through the testimonies of contemporaries, which unfortunately have not been preserved. The first survivors date from the Second Empire, in the 1860s. Although these newspapers were banned, they circulated in schools.


A Diary of 1868, The youth, has a brave editor, Alfred Sircos. The latter, despite the setbacks, achieved the feat of editing for more than a year this fortnightly which described the school world, the harshness of the boarding school, the boredom in the classrooms and the concern of high school students for their future.

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From the laws of 1881 that established the true freedom of the press, the high school newspapers are multiplying. Youth rights, a weekly, made history in 1882. The newspaper was addressed directly to the minister in charge of school education, making proposals on the content of the programs. He calls the major newspapers asking them to open a weekly column for him.

The newspaper managed to appear in Paris and Lyon, Marseille and Lille, being broadcast by a national high school club. In the 1890s, the news left its mark on the columns of the youth press with a hot topic, the innocence of Captain Dreyfus.

A clandestine existence

In the early twentieth centuryi century, the secondary press, although not legally existing, continues to spread and multiply throughout France. During World War II, clandestine newspapers appeared, written by high school students, some of whom joined the ranks of the resistance.

As a result, after the Second World War, the average age of journalists dropped. Journalists in the non-professional press continued their publishing adventure after the end of World War II. After the war, young publishers demanded independent journalism and civic and civic engagement.

The secondary press in the conquest of their rights (CLEMI).

During the 1960s, high school action commissions, set up in December 1967, demanded freedom of expression in high schools. There are about fifty in France, twenty of them in Paris.

The events of the spring of 1968 will accelerate the momentum of momentum. In May 1968, thousands of ephemeral papers and diaries appeared, written by high school students. For degrees written solely by high school students, the duration and living conditions remain very precarious. Press bodies are banned from high schools, allowing the administration to crack down on editorial teams when they hear about them.

A legal framework

The end of the 1980s was again conducive for high school students to speak in public. Political decisions profoundly alter the status of high school students and allow for the legal recognition of their press bodies. In 1989, the Guidance Act established the School Life Council (CDVL) with the aim of “giving opinions” and “formulating proposals relating to school life and work”. The fall of the Berlin Wall in the same year moved the high school press.

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High school students get the right to assemble, the right to associate, and the right to publish. This position of principle becomes pragmatic by the decree of February 18, 1991, which allows, in the school context, the free distribution of publications directed by high school students.

The news selected and treated by the press of the institute is presented in three layers. The first is linked to adolescence, characterized by puberty, which is accompanied by significant bodily and psychological changes. This news of puberty is crossed by questions about otherness, desire, sex. Articles can take on a humorous tone (tips to please the opposite sex are given), use a poetic form, or approach the topic from a social perspective, addressing the topic of sexual orientation, gender stereotypes, or homophobia.

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Legal news for teenage high school students is tied to local news, marked by local high school life. At a first level, the present is that of the class. These are, therefore, articles that focus on teachers, their good words, the small incidents that punctuate the expected daily life of high school students. At the high school level, the events organized affect high school students of different classes and levels.

Concerns about high school and higher education are also widely addressed. The field of possibilities in adolescence causes a certain vertigo. High school years are crucial to orienting yourself little by little. In addition to the stress of high school tests, there is the anxiety of post-high school guidance.

Media agenda

The third layer, the media news (understood here as all the information processed by the conventional media), is very present in high school newspapers. This news – organized by the media agenda and which shakes or interests the social and political body – captivates high school journalists.

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This news is not linked to the personal experience of young journalists, but is based on their media experience. What has been seen and heard, particularly by the media that offer audiovisual media, fully participates in their eyes in their overall life experience. In recent years, we have witnessed an increase in international news (US elections, migration crises, armed conflict, terrorism), as well as the treatment of climate issues and international meetings on the protection of the planet.

Finally, the media itself, its operation, the new risks and challenges associated with digital technology (conspiracy theories, fake news, cyber-humiliation, hateful and violent speech) are of concern to editorial teams.

The creation of a media outlet in schools contributes to the media education of young journalists for a number of reasons. Writing articles with the reader in mind, using graphic tools, managing a budget, a work diary, relationships with a printer are all part of the know-how and interpersonal skills they acquire.

Regional meeting of young journalists in Limoges (France 3 Nouvelle-Aquitaine, 2018).

But above all, they say that they are more sensitive to the current situation and its treatment by the big media, they want to be better informed and they ask questions about the reliability of the sources. In 2015, the Minister of National Education believed that “there is no better media education than doing it yourself.” This is even more true today.
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