the classroom as a place of utopia


Among the slew of films devoted to school released in recent months, here is one, particularly pleasant, which ticks all the boxes. A film for the general public which does not greatly insult the intelligence of the latter, here is something too rare in France to fail to point it out. Dare we repeat, fearing to do him wrong, that Castagnetti, by his own admission, was particularly inspired by the ignorant master of the philosopher Jacques Rancière? The book focuses on the experience of Joseph Jacotot, a French teacher who taught around 1818 at the University of Louvain (Belgium) without knowing a word of Flemish, and yet with the greatest profit.

The plot of the film, to return to healthier references, is more or less that of the last Ducobu (Ducobu president!), but upside down. Where Elie Semoun made fun of the supposed “laisser-faire” of alternative pedagogies, describing the resulting anarchy, Alexandre Castagnetti, who is not making his first film on adolescence (Tamara2016; Glue2017…), charmingly and brilliantly defends the opposite thesis.

Consider the Jean-Zay college, a name that is equivalent to a program, an establishment lambda not locatable, not socially marked, conducive to the experiment that will be carried out there. Virginie Thévenot, a new mathematics teacher, weakened by a tragic experience that occurred in a class of excellence where she taught, takes advantage of her transfer to this establishment without any particular qualities to question it, both for herself and for her students, all the sacrosanct principles of the school institution.

Democratic laboratory

First discreetly. To see in a way, by defying with a fine intelligence the presuppositions of the class. It takes a certain courage in the face of a pack that will always interpret breaches of the principles of authority – starting with the abandonment of grades – as a sign of weakness. Then, more openly, thanks to a general strike by the teaching staff, by volunteering to welcome students who cannot stay at home. From this moment, the school is transformed into an open-air democratic laboratory. It is a question of awakening the pupils to their own desires, of encouraging common projects and therefore the spirit of solidarity essential to their implementation. And it works, beyond all hope, like Malika, a cabochard absentee, but an unsuspected scientific genius, who invents a self-sufficient power supply system for the school.

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