I know what you did last summer

Please everybody stay home!
We are back at it… France is locked down, again, but with a few changes this time: Especially for the educational sector. Primary-, middle- and high-schools will remain open. Institutions of Higher Education on the contrary have to close and will need to go full-on remote. The government, in a desperate try to calm the agitated sea, explains that this is an apparently well-studied move, a deliberate choice. This new and distinctive approach towards public education is partly based on a specific argument, we are hearing more and more lately: «avoiding school dropouts (cit. éviter le décrochage scolaire)».


Work or rest in peace

Leaving schools open, allows parents to keep working throughout the day, be in remotely or not. A small band-aid for the suffering economy. Thank god, it also preserves them from needing to occupy their small children 24/7 or trying to get teenagers out of bed at midday or off a screen. Besides all this ironically welcomed side-effects, the government seems to mainly and seriously be preoccupied about equality, it’s very dear value, or even more about the lack of it. 


“If you only see one solution to a problem, then you don’t really understand the problem.”

Seen on a whiteboard at SuperPedestrian

I certainly agree with the government that it is a core idea of education to get everybody instructed with «knowledge and skills» and that this needs to happen in the fairest way possible. On the other hand, I do most certainly not agree with the minister, where these skills may lie, what this knowledge may be and especially how, where and when they should be taught or delivered. I do not believe that equality, as it is nowadays lived and transmitted in French public schools, will help our kids or that it could be seen as a solution. Quite the contrary: it often emphasizes different cultural backgrounds and social status, unfortunately not only for the kids’ benefits. Tony Ruth’s images for John Maeda’s 2019-Design-Tech-Report illustrated this point exactly and precisely. He possibly even shows what real education or inclusive leadership could or should mean:

also read  on finding unicorns


Inequality = unequal access to opportunities Equality = evenly distributed tools and assistance Equity = custom tools that identify and address inequality Justice = Fixing the system to offer equal access to other tools and opportunities

A sequel for closed cinemas

Firstly, leaders now have to somehow politically admit, without really saying so, that there would be a rising number of children with educational gaps or even drop-outs, if lessons were not physically delivered, especially in «poor neighborhoods». This sadly reinforces my apprehension of a deeply obsolete Taylorian system, losing itself in a disruptive world. 
Secondly, this possible appearance of gaps or drop-outs does not seem to exist on a university level. Maybe because the Higher Education system has already undergone a deep and groundbreaking transformation towards a hybrid, blended And fully inclusive academic delivery? (Really?) Or maybe because the «natural selection for equality» has already taken place before, in High School? (Equity and Justice, really?)


What were we doing last summer?

«After a lock-down paired with a complete shutdown of all schools, does a second lock-down with open schools seem a more sustainable solution ?» questions Catherine Nave-Bekhti (SGEN-CFDT) in today’s LeMonde. «Wouldn’t there be other ways of working in education ? Everything depends on how the epidemic is going to evolve in the now open academic institutions.»

«We will never be ready on Monday (comment: 4 days after lock-down has been announced)» says Thomas Clay, provisional administrator of the Panthéon Sorbonne University in Paris. He worries that the ordered immediate shifting to a totally remote delivery in HE will raise multiple yet unknown logistical complications for institutions. 
I partly agree, nevertheless, after a first fairly violent lock-down (in March 2020), for more than five months rather than profoundly revisiting a system by using the « gone wrong » examples and the « good practice » to make things more adapted, better or just relevant for now, certain institutions are still in a situation, where only a fall back on simple black-or-white solutions seems to be possible… 
I kinda know what you did last summer, don’t I? 


Maeda, J., CX-Report-2020. (2020), self-published in collaboration with Publicis Sapient, New York.
Morin, V., Les écoles échappent au reconfinement, les universités basculent dans l’enseignement en ligne, (29.10.2020), Le Monde: link 
Ruth, T., illustrations in 2019.

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