COVID-19 obliges, and given the offer of online cinema, it had been a long time since I set foot in a cinema. But I couldn’t resist the temptation to go see the time of secretsthe most recent adaptation of Marcel Pagnol’s childhood memories —after my mother’s castle Y the glory of my father. I liked the film a lot, as did the general public and more than the critics, apparently. I have to admit that I really like Pagnol.
We don’t get over it: the movie made me think a lot about education and school. It is not surprising: they occupy a large place. This is yesterday’s school in France, of course. But, in certain respects, it also remains something of ours, or at least makes one think of it. You see: the news was even invited to my viewing of the film.
Let’s go to Provence. We are in the summer of 1905. Summer vacation begins.
The Hussars of the Republic
Marcel Pagnol’s father, Joseph, is a teacher and young Marcel, a scholarship holder of the Republic, is about to enter high school, that is, high school.
The family feels a feeling of gratitude towards the Republic. Being able to attend school sounds like what it is: a huge opportunity. I found myself, once again, thinking with gratitude of the work done so recently in our country by the Parents Commission and all that we owe to it.
We can’t imagine these young high school students depicted in the film demolishing one of the school’s classrooms by smashing typewriters… let alone the entire community, starting with the school administration, is not offended by such behavior .
The classroom is austere, with padded desks and a blackboard. She is from another era, without a doubt, as are the teacher and the type of authority that she exercises, the one that comes to insult the recalcitrant with mediocre results. However: she is respected because she embodies, because she establishes, hence her name, something that goes beyond all the actors in this play in which they are acting. This is called knowledge, possible emancipation, belonging to a society.
The figure of the teacher, this hussar of the Republic, and the respect due to him, are therefore omnipresent. Little Marcel, involved in a fight with another student, will be saved by what a supervisor will and will not report. This one will say to have been deeply marked by his teacher, a certain Joseph Pagnol.
Each one of us, or almost, could testify to the importance, sometimes decisive, of this or that teacher in his life story. Here’s mine, which takes me back to Africa and one of those hussars who are preparing us for our sixth form entrance exam…
And I began to dream of such recognition of the work of teachers in our country.
Women and a certain law
The question of the place, of the condition of women, in that world in general and in that of school and education in particular, is addressed in the film, and the description that is made of it allows one to measure the immensity of the path route.
It was women’s activism that made it possible (among other things with their publication called Sling), and education, which they value, has a lot to do with it, impossible not to feel great emotion at all this.
The action takes place in 1905, and this year resonates strongly with people interested in education.
It was the year in which, surrounded by a team of people from the left, and even from the extreme left, Ferdinand Buisson (1841-1932), an immense educator of the time, author of the essential and very striking Dictionary of pedagogy and primary instruction and future Nobel Peace Prize winner (1927), finally approved the ambitious law of separation of Church and State. A new word then entered the collective vocabulary: secularism. And it is in the school, in the school above all, where it must be applied. Of course, we refer to him in the film, where we also see, through jokes and irony, these disagreements between the believing uncle and the hussar Joseph.
But the law will be applied and through it France brings something new in the organization of life in the city and what follows for the school. I had a thought for us, due to the fact that, despite our very modest Bill 21, we continue to “subsidize about fifty schools that maintain explicit religious practices”.
I imagine that, at least in France, Pagnol is still studied at school. Through his theater and his cinema, he has never ceased to be loved by the public, and this also applies to us: the theater that day was full.
But I confess that I am surprised that it is not yet in La Pléiade. Should we see, as some say, an effect of a certain political correctness condemning a work in which minorities are absent and in which yesterday’s stereotypes abound? The prelude to its concealment in the school curriculum? I refuse to think that.
I leave you with one of those beautiful words that Pagnol had the secret of.
In October 1962, when he was 67 years old, the Republic gave him a great gift: a high school in Saint-Loup, on the outskirts of Marseille, would bear his name. Marcel Pagnol High School! Very moved during the inauguration, he will say: “I thank you, with deep and great emotion, for having inscribed on the face of the most beautiful secondary school in France my first name, followed by the name of my father, the teacher of Saint Loup. »