We are not yet out of this terrible crisis that we have been in for almost a year and it is likely that humanity will not fully emerge from it before the end of this year.
There will be many lessons to be learned from this tragedy and it is to be hoped that we will be up to this important task.
What will happen to education here?
There are many unknowns in this equation, and I have always liked this distinction Donald Rumsfeld proposed between the known, the known unknown and the unknown unknown. That is to say between the things that we know, the things that we know that we do not know and the things that we do not even know that we do not know.
My crystal ball is not very good, but I argue that the effects of the pandemic on pupils and students will be significant, especially on the most fragile of them, and that it will be necessary to monitor and document closely all of this. The work of teachers and professors, already heavy and unattractive, will be weighed down accordingly, and the effects of the pandemic on them could have some very unpleasant surprises in store for us: early retirement, dropouts from the profession, shortage of teachers…
We will also draw – and very often this will be the work of parties with significant economic interests in the subject – lessons from the vast experimentation that we have, without having chosen it, carried out on distance education.
Projects undertaken before the pandemic, and which for some we had almost forgotten, will return to the fore: the establishment of secularism in schools; the revision of the Ethics and Religious Culture (ECR) course; changes to school structures; the definition of the status and role of the university; the mission of CEGEPs, particularly in the regions; the persistent and in my opinion unacceptable inequalities in front of school; the place and financing of private schools; the state of our school infrastructure; what should be put in place for early childhood; and so on.
If you read me a little, you know that I have been advocating, for some years now, a vast, serious and complete collective reflection on what we expect from education and on the means that we are consequently prepared to devote to this mission.
My idea was, and still is, that the transformations of all kinds – social, political, economic, technological – that have occurred since the sixties of the last century require us to review what we then put in place, precisely as a result of such collective reflection: the Parent commission. I proposed to call it the Parent Commission 2.0.
You guessed it: I maintain today that the crisis we are going through makes this reflection more necessary than ever.
I was therefore very happy to read this week – notably from the pen of one of the designers of the recent educational reform, Claude Lessard, of one of the members of the Parent commission, Guy Rocher, and of the eminent philosopher Georges Leroux, main designer of the ECR course, and over 240 other signatories – a letter (“Rethinking and relaunching the public school”, Press, January 18, 2021) asking to hold a general meeting on education. The authors, who are important players in the world of education, thereby join the ideas that I defend with my Parent Commission 2.0 project.
So I can only applaud this project, and I think it will be hard to overstate its importance. However, I will allow myself a clarification.
Evidence and purposes
Good decisions, in these complex matters where they combine, as harmoniously as possible, we hope, factual data and values, draw their legitimacy from two sources: the truth of the statements, which must be consistent with the facts and therefore taken with full knowledge. based on evidence, and as broad a consensus as possible on values and goals.
The hearings that the members of the Estates General team will hold (face-to-face!) Will, I think, allow this broad consensus to be reached. There remains the delicate question of evidence. I must admit here a deep uneasiness aroused by the name “general states on education”, which refers to those held three decades ago and which remain, for all those concerned to take into account the evidence, a painful moment. . These had indeed been ignored, primarily by those whose mission it is to know and defend them.
This is why this vast consultation must include a credible team of experts familiar with the scientific and philosophical literature on educational evidence. I have some ideas on the composition of this necessary scientific committee and I will submit them when the time comes, if it comes, as I hope – and I will not quibble too much about the name we will give to this great and necessary collective reflection.
However, I believe that to call it Parent Commission 2.0 would demonstrate both a sense of historical continuity and the recognition of the debt we owe to our predecessors. I am also thinking of someone who could be named a member of this team: the great Guy Rocher, who could be its honorary president.
We collectively owe this reflection to ourselves, the time of which has come and which I suspect will create a very broad consensus if it is made known.
We owe it to all of us and to our children, present and future.