Clément Viktorovitch returns each week to the debates and political issues. Sunday March 19: the hypothesis of a gradual generalization of the SNU, from the next start of the school year.
According to information revealed by Politics and confirmed by franceinfo, a National Education report plans to gradually generalize the SNU from the start of the next school year. The Universal National Service is one of Emmanuel Macron’s major projects, announced during the 2017 campaign and tested from 2019. The idea is to offer high school students a 12-day “cohesion stay”, half -path between civic education, sports activities and military supervision, possibly followed by a “period of commitment” with the army, firefighters, public services, etc. This SNU, which takes place in the summer on a voluntary basis, could now concern all high school students, in second class, during school time.
The hypothesis of a generalization of the SNU was mentioned by Emmanuel Macron himself, during his wishes for 2023. When we listen to the members of the government, and particularly Sarah El Haïry, the Secretary of State in charge of Youth, three expressions come up repeatedly: creating commitment, instilling emancipation, promoting social diversity. These would be the virtues of Universal National Service.
Let’s start with the simplest: commitment. Noting all the same that a compulsory commitment is no longer a commitment. It is an obligation, even a chore! If the objective is to make the UNS a vehicle for youth engagement, the simple fact of wanting to generalize it is nonsense. Then, emancipation. It’s a great value. The only problem is that it is also the mission of another institution: the school. Passing on civic values, a sense of citizenship, is what the republican school is already doing. However, it does so by cruelly lacking the means – we will come back to this.
As for the objective of social diversity, this is actually the first reason put forward to justify the UNS. And everyone sees what it refers to: nostalgia for military service, and its – undeniable – social mix. The winegrower from Bordeaux, the teacher from Marseilles and the worker from Montbéliard, together, in the same room: this is what we would like to find. With all the same a slight difference: the military service lasted one year, against 12 days for the SNU.
School coeducation is almost no longer assured
Last fall, the National Education was forced to make public the social position indices (IPS) of the colleges. Basically: the sociology of the students of each establishment. What, then, have we been able to observe? It’s simple: that there is hardly any more, in France, school coeducation.
Of the 100 colleges with the highest IPS, that is to say where the students are the most advantaged, 81 are private establishments under contract. In private education, nearly 60% of students come from privileged or very privileged backgrounds. In priority education, more than 60% of pupils come from underprivileged backgrounds. Sociologist Fabienne Fédérini is very clear: for her, it is social separatism. Camille Peugny, also a sociologist of education, even evokes an authentic school segregation.
Faced with this observation, what does the state do? Nothing, or almost. Whether for lack of means, lack of courage, or because this system suits them, successive governments have never stopped the flight of the elites to the private sector. And now, we are told that the solution to compensate for a whole schooling of absence of social mix, are 12 days of marching in step wearing caps? This is not serious.
Give resources to the school rather than to the SNU
Because obviously, all this has a cost. The Senate Finance Committee has just released a report on the Universal National Service. She estimates that at cruising speed, the device would cost two to three billion euros per year.
Such a sum for 12 days which will encroach on the role of high schools, put pressure on school time, divert part of the military personnel from their primary function… It is difficult to see what could justify such an expense, if not is for reasons of ideology or pure communication.
Instead, give the republican school the means to fulfill its mission, finally focus on seriously fighting against inequalities: this, from my point of view, is how this money could be better used.