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Sleep-in Protests to Be Staged in French Schools

Translated Sunday 15 June 2008, by Gene Zbikowski

Parents and teachers will be sleeping in class this Friday in a “Night of the Schools” against the measures introduced by Minister of Education Darcos. The sleep-in, which originated in Nantes, is spreading.

Struggle while you sleep: that could be the phrase that will be coined at the end of this week. A new form of protest will see teachers and parents snoozing in class on the night of Friday to Saturday this week, during a huge “Night of the Schools” protest (1). The protest targets the on-going reforms. Begun in Nantes last Wednesday, the protest will hit over 200 schools in 32 “départements” (roughly equivalent to a county) according to an estimate made yesterday. The figure should increase in view of the enthusiasm that has greeted the protest.

Will the initiators of the movement attain their goal of 1,000 schools? Time will tell. In the meantime, the movement is hitting the bullseye, both in the Paris region and in the Maine-et-Loire département. But it has had the most impact where it began, in the Loire-Atlantique département. “A few weeks ago, when a collective was set up to discuss the new pedagogical set-up proposed by Xavier Darcos,” the parent of a pupil explained. “The elimination of classes on Saturday morning [until now, French schools have been closed on Wednesday afternoons and open on Saturday mornings – translator’s note], remedial classes during the holidays and the ‘back-to-the-basics’ curricula are fake good ideas." The pace of learning will not be respected for students with problems, who will be forced to stay after class in the evening or go to school during the holidays. As for the curricula, they are both too intense and emptied of all creative thinking.

Consequently, the collective wanted to strike a mighty blow. Several night sit (or sleep) ins had already been held in the Maine-et-Loire and Ille-et-Vilaine départements. The people of the Nantes region have put forward the concept on a national scale. On Friday night, it will therefore be a matter of “going to sleep while dreaming of a 2008-2009 school year in which the curricula will be conceived together with professional teachers,” the poster made for the protest explains, and “in which pupils who have problems will be helped by special teachers during the regular school day.”

The sleep-in concept is seen as nice and friendly. “It is a pleasant concept,” said Gilles Moindrot, the general secretary of the SNUIpp-FSU teachers union. “Generally, schools are occupied to protest against a reduction in the number of classes. This time, the demand is for quality education.” The teachers union has joined the movement and has put the sleep-in on page one of its website. Christiane Allain, the general secretary of the FCPE, the parents’ association, is also enthusiastic. “Our members pushed us to join this protest,” she explained. “At first, we were a little worried about questions of legal liability in case of problems. » But the legal framework having been clarified, “nothing is holding us back any more ...”

(1) nuit.des.ecoles.over-blog.com

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