Sex controversy kicks off school year
The first “back to school” bell hasn’t rang in France yet, but education minister Luc Chatel (pictured below) already has his back against the blackboard. This time it’s not underpaid, Karl Marx-reading teachers that are after him, but the most conservative members of Chatel’s own ruling UMP party.
In a concerned letter dated 30 August, the 80 MPs accuse France’s education boss of doing a poor job of controlling the content in school textbooks.
Really it’s just a handful of science textbooks, for 16 to 17 year olds, with one very specific kind of content, which the lawmakers are angry about: the ones that advance gender theory.
Penned by the super conservative MP Richard Mallié, the lawmaker’s letter rages at text -now present in some biology textbooks in French high schools- that say things like “biological sex identifies us as male or female, but that does not mean we can qualify ourselves as masculine or feminine. We develop our sexual identity throughout our lives.”
According to the offended lawmakers, this “philosophical and sociological theory” no longer defines people as male or female, but by their “homosexual, heterosexual, bisexual or transsexual” orientation. They say gender theory has no place is scientific schoolbooks. They want these pulled from classrooms immediately.
Opposition members reacted immediately. Philippe Meirieu, a school expert and member of France’s Green party, said MPs had no mandate to shape national school curriculum and called on them to keep politics out of schools.
Socialist Party member Bruno Julliard, a spokesperson for the party on education matters, went further. He called on Chatel not to concede to Maillié’s demands and to “urgently react” to the letter.
Unsa-Education, one of France’s largest teacher’s union also asked Chatel to speak publicly against the letter and to ensure that the “principles of editorial and pedagogical liberty” be respected.
Unsurprisingly, Chatel did not immediately reveal his orientation in the controversial matter. He must not relish his options: either come off as traitor within his own camp or a homophobic book censurer to the other. It’s a lose-lose situation for a minister who has said he wants morality and values to play a larger part in schools.
Best for France’s education boss to play hooky on Monday.