France: turmoil over new education minister

In France, the appointment of Pap Ndiaye, a historian specialised in race relations, as the new minister of education has been strongly criticised by conservatives and the right. For them, Ndiaye champions US identity politics and attacks the values of the Republic. The debate about Ndiaye as an individual misses the point, says the national press.

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L'Obs (FR) /

The wrong debate

It would be better if those for and against the appointment calmed down and focused on more pressing issues, stresses Mara Goyet, also an author and teacher, in L'Obs:

“The at times fierce, at times enthusiastic reactions give the impression that those of us in the schools spend our time wondering whether the teaching of prehistory in grade 6 is not a little too ethnocentric, or whether anatomical illustrations in textbooks shouldn't be revised to make them more inclusive. ... For all those who have forgotten: state education policy also means worrying when pupils don't go to the toilet all day because the toilets are in such a disgusting state. ... This is about maths blockages and learning gaps in writing, oral expression and much more.”

Mediapart (FR) /

Criticism betrays racism

Médiapart is worried about the mounting political offensive against Ndiaye:

“The appointment highlights how structural, deep-rooted racism is part and parcel of French society and its political class. ... The grotesque nature of the offensive of which Ndiaye is the victim would be laughable if it weren't so dangerous. Those who portray him as an extremist, dangerous historian have certainly neither read nor heard Pap Ndiaye, an intellectual with a calm voice and balanced views who weighs every word he uses.”

Le Figaro (FR) /

Symbolic power over know-how

The appointment is purely strategic, writes teacher and author Barbara Lefebvre in Le Figaro:

“Was he appointed for his expertise - which he lacks - or for what he symbolises? Is this not perhaps a cynical message from Macron to a small group of leftist secularists who were steamrolled in the elections after sacrificing themselves for Macron's re-election in the hopes of a seat in parliament or a ministerial post? Is Pap Ndiaye's lack of political know-how meant to lull the unions and teachers with even more nebulous verbosity? Is he supposed to push through Macron's announced ultra-neoliberal, postmodern reform, the 'school of the future'?”