France’s teachers can’t do their jobs

France’s teachers can’t do their jobs

By Rachel Marsden

A teacher in a Paris suburb is accused of Islamophobia because she showed her class the classic painting “Diana and Actaeon” by Giuseppe Cesari as part of an exercise in image analysis – and all because the “five muses of antiquity” were depicted “happen to be naked. It’s a classic painting, not porn.

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Although the artist, dead for nearly four centuries, probably did not intend to offend anyone with his depiction of the nymphs when he created the work in the 17th century, it now appears to serve as a convenient springboard for that kind of gratuitous To assume victimhood, which is so common in today’s age of censorship culture, where the worst thing you can be accused of is having offended someone.

By the end of the school day, the parents of the few children at the Jacques Cartier middle school in the Paris suburb of Issou, who, according to school authorities and reports, had turned away from the painting when it was presented in class, had already arrived at the school. They demanded an explanation for what they later denounced as Islamophobic in the French press. The following school day, the school’s teachers exercised their right not to come to work out of fear for their safety. The French Minister of Education had to appear on campus in person to prevent a fiasco that threatened to boil over.

The school in the suburb of Issou is just 34 kilometers from the middle school in the suburb of Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, in front of which a teacher, Samuel Paty, was beheaded because he showed a class provocative caricatures from the satirical magazine in October 2020 Charlie Hebdo about the Prophet Mohammed for educational and debate purposes. The incident led to a well-known radical Islamist spreading viral posts about it on social media, which were seen by an 18-year-old Islamist refugee. He was shot dead at the scene by the police when they arrived there to investigate the murder of the teacher. At the beginning of December, six teenagers were criminally convicted because they cooperated with the murderer in the targeted attack on Paty.

At another middle school in Mantes-la-Jolie, just nine kilometers from the recent incident involving the Cesari artwork, teachers also briefly exercised their right to stay away from work in early December when they found out their names were in a school Chat group on WhatsApp of parents of their students appeared following a school lesson on media literacy by history and geography teachers on the Israel-Palestine conflict. Parents were reportedly shocked that materials used in class referred to Hamas as a “terrorist group.”

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Now, just because a teacher calls Hamas terrorists doesn’t mean the teacher is Islamophobic or some kind of rabid Zionist. One may personally disagree with this particular characterization – one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter – but that is the actual current position of France and the European Union. If teachers want to do their work as objectively as possible, they do not have much leeway to deviate from the establishment’s dictates.

So what should they do – start a debate? Everyone loves the idea of ​​a debate – as long as the teachers take the side you prefer. With so many teachers retiring from teaching out of fear, it’s no wonder there aren’t enough teachers. According to the teachers’ union, about 50 percent of high and middle schools in France lacked at least one teacher last September.

Just like freedom of expression, statues, drawings and paintings are also part of Western culture and civilization. One of the main arguments for welcoming more immigrants, as promoted by the Western establishment, is that it is a means of culturally enriching Western democracies. The demand that classic cultural works be covered up, torn down or censored because they could be offensive to immigrant culture contradicts this argument.

Come on people. We’re talking about France here. One of France’s national symbols, Marianne, became perhaps the most famous topless woman depicted in the legendary painting by Eugène Delacroix, “Liberty Leading the People”, which depicts the moment of the people’s triumph over the elites during the French represents revolution. From topless sunbathing that doesn’t even warrant a shrug, anyone who finds themselves annoyed by the natural female forms really made a bad decision when they decided that France was the right country for them to France as a nation considered the birthplace of the bikini since Louis Réard made a global debut with his design in 1946 at the legendary Molitor swimming pool in Paris.

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Admittedly, we live in a time of heated conflict in which everyone tries to score points against “the other side” by conveniently trying to define inconvenient incidents in a way that warrants a particular label designed to silence the opponent do – be it for fear of being accused of “racism”, “sexism”, “Islamophobia” or “anti-Semitism”. This is a huge disservice to the causes they want to champion by diluting them with trivialities. There is real, legitimate global compassion for the thousands of civilians in Gaza who are currently being killed while the world watches and argues. But using the conflict in Gaza as an excuse to curb people’s freedom of expression will not win many hearts or approval.

There are cases of real Islamophobia, where a very clear definition of prejudice against Muslims is manifested. A selective distaste for some aspects of another country’s cultural repertoire does not fit the picture, just as knee-jerk accusations of anti-Semitism should not be used as a means to harass and force into submission and silence critics of Israel’s foreign policy. These are two sides of the same rhetorical coin. They serve to effectively suppress democratic debate – which may be desirable if you can use it to your advantage, but certainly not if you yourself fall victim to the same tactics.

It should be possible, even in the midst of terrible conflict, to still have access to the beautiful things in life, like paintings and art – or teachers who don’t have to fear for their lives.

From English.

Rachel Marsden is a columnist, political strategist and host of an independently produced French-language program broadcast on Sputnik France. Her website can be found at

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