The 'Instits' question

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May 11, 2020, is the date set by the government for the gradual reopening of schools. In a note of 20 April (1), , the Scientific Council recommends to the government the reopening of schools and establishments in September, indicating in another specific opinion that the decision to reopen them prematurely on 11 May is a 'political decision' and not a health decision. A posture of emancipation in the face of the executive, of course, but in the field, quid of our teachers?

The issues of the day a few years ago, such as harassment, were in the private sector. Today, despite the "modernization" of certain public services, we can see that to a large extent this is where we find authoritarian, outdated, principled behaviour that mistreats civil servants - who are, moreover, called "agents", a bit like chemical "agents" ...

In this sector of the public service that is National Education, I discovered that the regulations (which play the role of quasi collective agreement) did not introduce the "conscience clause". Now the President calls for solidarity, after having declared that "we are at war". Surprisingly enough, if there is one institution where this clause has existed for a long time, it is the French Army. Has our President, Chief of the Armed Forces, forgotten this "detail"?

More than a quirk, it is for me a "blind spot", which is quite paradoxical in Democracy. This archaism, we tend to forget, is a response to the rule of obedience due to the institution. The term is overwhelming, it is not just a question of a hierarchical authority but of a much more powerful principle, close to the "sacred". In this it does not tolerate the exception and even less accommodations. In National Education, the term obedience is used quite commonly as if it were commonplace. Some teachers could be described as opponents, or even "rebels" at best, but some of them, though neither resistant to all power nor extremists, are or have been described as "disobedient". There is something ambivalent about this, despite the rebellious nature of the situation. Does this not put them in a mirror-image position vis-à-vis their ministry of "guardianship" in relation to that of their pupils?

In a society that does not like risk, that masks us, confines us, puts us under house arrest, making us think of the Boëtie who in the 16th century pointed out our propensity for "voluntary servitude", how is it that we have not even taken into account all the randomness of the movements of very young pupils in CP, CE1, perhaps CE2, who are at high risk and naturally unpredictable, even at fifteen per class? All the more so since they would not be required to wear masks. At six-eight years old, can we really hold still?

In the most recent ministerial injunctions on the supposed resumption of teachers' work, there is, for example, no "right of withdrawal" for teachers who are older than 55 years of age and X years of service.

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Brewing kilos of bytes vertically, with quantities of descending orders, the machine did not apply either of the two very French cousin sayings: the Policy "to govern is to foresee" and its medical counterpart, "better to prevent than to cure". One very much hopes that the ideal unconscious model of decisions is not yet that of a certain high-ranking civil servant, who dedicated his action to compliance with procedures eight decades ago...

After an erratic start, it seems that the state is trying to catch up now, and that's good. In this case, it could therefore at least apply the "precautionary principle" to a trade directly related to it (for the record, the precautionary principle was included in our Constitution in 1995). For if this body owes obedience to him, then the institution must protect it. But if, in the coming days, a teacher decides not to return to his or her post, by exercising the "right of withdrawal", this right has its constraints: he or she will need serious, catalogued and certified medical reasons (as if the State were certain that this list was exhaustive. Moreover, there are likely to be teachers who do not know all the pathologies they carry). For the public authorities, the fatigue and fragility inherent in age are not enough. Or else, they have to justify this by, for example, concrete shortcomings, such as, trivially, the lack of soap, gel, etc...

We are indeed here in a machine, by definition, which is rigid and which, even in this epidemic, has not found any actors to take into account the essential: the living. A teacher who openly loves his job and feels intimately fragile should therefore produce precise medical certificates... In the comments around the resumption of school, I did not hear any mention of the risk of contagion they run.

We're only talking about risks to students. Yet these teachers did not stand idle during the confinement; they deployed in record time a talent for getting even the little ones in first grade to work remotely...and can continue to do so. The word of a decent, esteemed, well-rated civil servant, who has been well noted over decades, but tired...would therefore be nothing? Wouldn't an oath of honor be enough? Trust? Loyal service? For the institution, a blind thing, in front of people, what prevails even in this cruel epidemic... it is the regulations, therefore?

Syndicat Sud Education seems to be the very first to have reacted firmly, with an appeal to National Education staff not to resume classes on 11 May, in the framework of their right to withdraw or their right to strike, to the detriment of their health. And indeed, the "calculation" benefit-risk here is not justified, as it is a serious risk for some teachers, even if they have no proven pathology to prove.

Paule Perez, Philosopher - Psychoanalyst

(1) Note of April 20, made public on Saturday, April 25, 2020

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