No, the great historical figures have not disappeared from the programs but …

Ballot delivery is an opportunity to see bosses. ” Oh, but do you have a date with N.’s father? He never replied to my Pronote messages! Jealous, my math classmate can’t believe it. Parents also generally like to know who they’re dealing with. I’m going to see 25 families.The exercise is like a kind of quick appointments. Often organized on an evening or Saturday morning, time is limited. In 15 minutes we take stock of education, guidance, various and varied administrative inconveniences.

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N.’s father is there. He works in the evening but has taken time to break free. The exchange is cordial, browse your child’s textbook ” They are more beautiful than in our time. This is not false, publishers have enriched the content that almost all also offer a digital version. ” But don’t you study Napoleon anymore? “Calm down:” Not yet in 5th grade, we study the First Empire in 4th grade, but this year we saw Joan of Arc.

Oh yes? I have the impression, however, that you see less of the great historical figures. »

Exemplary heroes

Parents who are interested in history do so from time to time. In this they resume a speech, quite common, often from a nostalgic strip of a school “before”. It’s actually false, History figures are always on the menu. Nothing prevents a teacher from organizing his course around Julius Caesar, Philippe-Auguste or Louis XIV according to the time studied. Another fable is circulating: chronology would be less respected in favor of more abstract notions. Criticism has been further strengthened with the new programs of 2016. However, for those who are bothered, it is easy to see that the statement is inaccurate. Just look at the official programs on “Eduscol” to see that they study Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantine emperors, Capetian and Bourbon kings, workers, captains of industry, furry people, collaborators, resistance fighters, De Gaulle, etc. . order, from 6 to 3. Some have already been seen in primary school, and will be re-studying in high school. Similarly, skills always assess mastery of timepieces. So where does the misunderstanding come from?

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Until the 1960s and 1970s, the story was taught primarily as a series of events embodied by the main actors. The timeline, with its arrow pointing to the right, the direction of reading, was a kind of promise with the ultimate goal of progress, whether political, economic or technological. We were heading for a necessarily better tomorrow built on a past populated by exemplary heroes from whom we had to learn life lessons or, conversely, frustrate antiheroes. From the shadow of the Middle Ages to the triumphant nineteenth and twentieth centuries. If the research quickly deviated from this teleological view of history, under the particular impetus of the Annales school, well aided in this by the trauma of World War I, experienced as a collapse of civilization , the ‘school’ story is long. he clung to the national novel.

Created in the 1870s, it was intended at that time to anchor the Republic in the minds of the people. After World War II, the goal was to rehabilitate it after the shameful years of Vichy, even if it meant omitting inglorious facts in both cases or presenting them as “accidents.” Each period has its instrumentalization. As we know, the subject is highly political, and the historical facts or characters highlighted by the programs tell both the contemporary era of the students and that of the facts studied.

Less “national novel”

Today there is still historical manipulation for the benefit of an oriented and idealized narrative, led by illustrious people, one can think of the Puy du Fou show, nostalgic for the Old Regime. But this trend is disappearing from textbooks that are moving further and further away from the national novel. The great historical figures continue in the program, but their “educational virtue” has evolved.

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If they are still studied then, it looks more like walkways to discover the society of their time. A letter from Napoleon I to the prefects can be used as a teaser document (in the introduction) to question Corsica’s relationship with the Revolution. Is it the heir or the tomb, how does it invite us to reflect on the current program? If biographical elements are essential, they are not enough. It is no longer a question of memorizing the epic of Bonaparte, because it would only highlight a destiny, certainly exceptional, but which does not in itself summarize the life of the French in the early nineteenth century. Would the students of 2322 learn much about the France of the 2020s by studying only the lives of Emmanuel Macron, Marine Le Pen or Jean Castex? Rather than aligning biographies / hagiographies, today students are invited to question the period studied taking into account a set of political, economic and cultural factors, to compare points of view, to identify permanence and breaking points. In short, making history. It is more complex because it invites contextualization and going back and forth in time. The chronology is no longer so obvious to understand, it is no longer so straightforward.

From great men to the hyperpersonalization of power

During this “two-way turn,” the question of “great men” can also question our relationship with politics and democracy. With the practical disappearance of so-called “mass” parties, such as the PCF, or “government” parties such as the PS or LR, well established in the territories in favor of more airy structures, based on individual political projects, the elected lose mailboxes. of suggestions that raised initiatives from its base but also channels of communication with the citizenship.

Quick to criticize the disconnection resulting from the “elites” (obviously not the only cause), we are nevertheless fascinated by the trajectories of these great political beasts, well aided in this by the narration installed around the candidates. And now we talk again about stories, stories, destinies. We vote more for or against personalities than for projects considered collectively. In this context, are we really delegating our national sovereignty?

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This phenomenon has existed in France for a long time, always tempted by Bonapartism, but it has become more pronounced in recent years. It is less found in the more mature democracies of the Scandinavian or Germanic world, which distrust excessive personalization of power. But he is beginning to interfere in the Anglo-Saxon political game in which Donald Trumps faces well-established partisan traditions. With notable differences, however, from France. In fact, these democracies have more control and balance and the man or woman at the head of the executive is accountable to parliament. With us the encounter between the providential being, sacred by direct universal suffrage, and the citizens must be prevented as little as possible. The people and their king.

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