Manifeste

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« Après le pain, l’éducation est le premier besoin du peuple. »

Georges Jacques Danton

La création de notre association résulte du constat de l’inégalité des chances à l’école selon les origines sociales des élèves, un thème abordé par de nombreux sociologues depuis les travaux de Pierre Bourdieu dans les années 1960. Il nous importe d’essayer de lutter contre l’échec scolaire des jeunes issus des couches populaires au travers de différentes actions. Pour cela, nous nous baserons notamment sur nos propres expériences d’élèves, qui nous ont permis d’acquérir les connaissances nécessaires au bon déroulement de notre scolarité. Nous, membres de l’association, sommes, dans la grande majorité étudiants inscrits en premier, second ou troisième cycle universitaire, et nous avons à cœur de transmettre aux jeunes issus de familles défavorisées, désireux de faire de longues études et quel que soit leur niveau, les clefs permettant une meilleure appréhension de l’univers scolaire.

Lors de notre passage au lycée, nous étions, pour la plupart, des élèves plutôt « moyens », ne se destinant pas à faire de longues études. N’ayant pas saisi dès le début les enjeux considérables que pouvait représenter pour nous la réussite scolaire, l’effort que nous consacrions au travail scolaire apparaissait souvent bien mince. Mais progressivement, et au prix d’importants sacrifices, nous avons tout de même eu accès à l’enseignement supérieur. Ces efforts fournis constituaient en fait le seul moyen d’empêcher la reproduction de la situation socio-économique fragile de nos parents. Ces derniers rêvaient et rêvent toujours pour leurs enfants d’un avenir loin des usines et du travail ingrat qu’on y offre. Cet espoir a accompagné les familles ouvrières implantées depuis longtemps en métropole comme celles des différents âges de l’immigration qui ont nourri les couches les plus défavorisées de la société française[1]. Cet espoir d’ascension sociale reposait sur une confiance en l’école républicaine.

Pleinement conscients du sacrifice de nos parents, qui ont connu humiliation et souffrance au travail comme dans la vie de tous les jours, nous nous efforçons d’agir afin que leurs perpétuels efforts ne soient pas vains. Un devoir de reconnaissance s’impose à nous : l’ascension sociale par l’intermédiaire de l’institution scolaire permet de procéder à une restitution symbolique de toutes les années de privation subies par nos mères et pères. Nous devons donc saisir la seule opportunité qui s’offre à nous : la réussite scolaire. Malgré le handicap de départ d’être issus des couches populaires, qui nous lie parfois corps et âmes – et certains d’entre nous savent combien il est difficile de le surmonter –, cette chance d’avoir accès à l’éducation, nous devons la saisir au détriment de tous les obstacles qui se dressent devant nous. Une chance que nos parents n’ont pas eue, une chance qu’il serait indécent de ne pas faire fructifier.

Grandir dans un univers familial où l’institution scolaire semble un sanctuaire impénétrable, imprenable fait naître le sentiment de ne pas être à la hauteur à chaque difficulté rencontrée. Ce sentiment perdure du fait que, dans l’entourage de ces familles, personne ne soit passé par des filières générales (aujourd’hui ES, S et L) et n’ait poursuivi des études universitaires. C’est ce que nous voulons représenter auprès de ces jeunes, parce que nous saurons trouver les mots pour redonner de l’espoir, et pour simplement affirmer : « C’est possible, tu peux y arriver, moi je suis pareil que toi, je suis parti-e de rien. » Voilà ce qui nous a manqué à nous, jeunes héritiers des classes populaires. La chose est encore plus vraie pour ceux issus de l’immigration, qui doivent trouver d’autres exemples à suivre que l’image des footballeurs ou des chanteurs à la mode. Nous voulons voir des avocats, des médecins, des universitaires issus des classes populaires et de l’immigration expliquer qu’ils sont passés par les mêmes galères que nous, ce qui ne les a pas empêché de réussir. C’est ce discours que nous souhaitons transmettre aux jeunes élèves, en se proposant comme exemples possibles de réussite scolaire malgré des conditions de départ défavorables. En outre, notre force réside dans l’hétérogénéité des membres de l’association sur le plan social et culturel. Preuve incontestable que la mixité sociale est possible et surtout bénéfique en particulier dans l’action sociale.

Loin de nous l’idée de produire une apologie du self-made man qui, par ses seules qualités individuelles, réussit à s’extraire des déterminismes sociaux qui pèsent sur lui. Au contraire, nous prônons la solidarité entre les générations, qui seule permettra de réparer un ascenseur social, ouvrant ainsi la voie de la mobilité à toute une génération, et non à quelques « élus » qui prennent l’escalier[2].

Nous souhaitons changer une certaine vision de l’éducation dans les milieux défavorisés, pour que la réussite scolaire se fasse par le développement des solidarités, autrement dit pour que les conditions individuelles défavorables au départ trouvent une compensation aussi forte que possible dans la stimulation collective, sans pour autant dépersonnaliser les perspectives d’avenir des élèves. Notre discours valorisera le plus profondément possible l’apprentissage scolaire comme levier d’ouverture sur le monde et de stimulation de l’imagination. A terme, un certain nombre de rapports sociaux pourraient être améliorés, comme la communication entre les « bons » élèves et ceux qui sont en difficultés. Beaucoup de ces derniers ne comprennent tout simplement pas que le travail à l’école ne peut qu’augmenter leurs chances d’accomplir leurs rêves, en termes professionnel et personnel. Notre projet porte l’espoir de faire naître le goût de la connaissance, et de contribuer à en restaurer l’importance.

  • [1] Abdelmalek Sayad, La double absence, 1999
  • [2] Aziz Senni, L’ascenseur social est en panne… j’ai pris l’escalier, 2005

Manifesto

Education is an essential need of the people, second only to bread.

Georges Jacques Danton

The impetus behind the establishment of our organization was the observation that students’ social origins were the source of educational inequalities. Numerous sociologists have addressed this topic since French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu’s groundbreaking work in the 1960s. We firmly believe in alleviating academic difficulties experienced by youth from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds via engaging in various preventative actions. In order to achieve this, we base our approach upon our own educational experiences, which have allowed us to obtain the knowledge necessary for our academic success. Most members of the organizations are themselves students at the undergraduate or graduate level. We feel that it is our responsibility to transmit a better understanding of educational opportunities to youth from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds who desire to gain access to higher education, regardless of their current level of academic ability.

During our own years in high school, we were, for the most part, barely average students who did not aim to pursue higher education. We did not grasp early on the importance that academic success represented for our futures, and consequently, our performance at school was often poor at best. Over the years, however, and at the cost of considerable personal sacrifice, we were able to reach the echelons of higher education. These efforts constituted our only means to break out of the cycle of socioeconomic disadvantage experienced by our parents. Our parents dreamed and continue to dream for us, their children, a future far away from the factories and drudgery that they have known all their lives. This hope has been long been nourished by urban working class families—families from different eras of immigration who have comprised the most disadvantaged portions of French society[1]. This dream of social ascension relies wholly upon confidence in the school system of the French Republic.

Deeply aware of the sacrifices of our parents, who have suffered and been humiliated daily in their professional and personal lives, we undertake this work to ensure that their dedication is not in vain. From our acknowledgement of their efforts is borne our duty: to rise in society through the means of higher education, an act that will symbolically represent a repayment for all the years of hardship endured by our mothers and fathers. We must seize the only opportunity available to us, the opportunity that comes with educational success. Despite the handicap of coming from working class backgrounds that sometimes clings stubbornly to us without respite—a difficulty that some of us know all too intimately—we must take advantage of this opportunity to access higher education, no matter how harsh the obstacles thrown into our path. This is an opportunity that our parents never had, and therefore, an opportunity that must not be cast aside, an opportunity that must be capitalized upon.

Growing up in families that regard educational institutions as insurmountable and impenetrable ivory towers creates a feeling of inadequacy in the face of every challenge. This feeling is perpetuated by the glaring fact that in these families, no one enters filières générales[2] and therefore, no one continues on to college. This is what we want to convey to the young students we work with, because we know what to say to imbue them with hope. We tell them that “It is possible to achieve this, because I am just like you…I too come from nothing.” This is the encouragement that we as working class youth did not receive. The stakes are even more serious for students from immigrant backgrounds, who need to be able to look up to examples other than the soccer players and singers currently in vogue. We would like lawyers, doctors, and academics with working class and/or immigrant origins to explain how, despite facing the same hardships that the students face, they persevered to succeed. We would like to share these stories with young students, to show them the very real possibility of scaling academic heights despite facing adverse conditions. The organization’s strength lies in our members’ social and cultural heterogeneity, which is proof that social diversity is not only possible, but also beneficial in the context of social action.

We do not subscribe to the notion of the self-made man who succeeds in lifting himself above deterministic social constraints through the sheer force of personal will. To the contrary, we practice an intergenerational solidarity that is the only way to restore the social “elevator” that opens up a path to mobility for an entire generation, because we do not believe in a few “chosen ones” taking the stairs alone[3].

Educational mission

Once examples of success are brought forth as motivational forces, we supplement them with further action. It is necessary to provide help and monitoring in various educational arenas to young students motivated towards educational success. We focus on students in students in the 8th and 9th grades (troisième, the last year of middle school and seconde, the first year of high school), because what happens over these two years will determine the fundamental orientation for the rest of their educational careers. We will provide them with the vital information and support necessary to make the wisest choice possible. Our actions are based on four points:

  • First, the student will receive year-long tutoring for academic difficulties, and moral support when his or her motivation falters. Many are those who have dropped out of school due to lack of family and academic support.
  • Second, the student will be exposed to a wellspring of information on the wide range of academic curricula available in high schools and universities, and will be encouraged to pay close attention to his or her personal choices in terms of academic orientation. The goal is to provide the student with the entire set of available choices so that he or she may make a decision based on both academic performance and personal inclination. Furthermore, we will provide help and support for all the necessary administrative steps.
  • Third, we will offer the student discovery-oriented outings to museums, theatres, libraries, etc., that provide a means to build and strengthen social capital. These outings are planned in advance such that students will receive all information necessary to understand the significance of the sites visited. They will sharpen each student’s curiosity so that he or she may have an active hand in his or her own learning process.
  • Fourth, we will provide a list of contacts comprised of the organization’s members, so that the student may benefit from social capital when seeking internships, financial resources and information on college or professional options.

Help will come in the form of a mentorship system. Each organization member will mentor, according to his or her availability, an undefined number of students, and monitor their performance in the long term, i.e. for at least two years. In exchange for this strictly not-for-profit help, we will engage the students benefiting from our support in a moral agreement. They must promise to help other working class students when they themselves have gained entrance into higher education. In this way, we will develop solidarity between the young students and between the various generations.

In order to spread our mission to students so that they can choose to benefit from the organization, we organize informational sessions in educational institutions located in the inner city (Zones d’Education Prioritaire, ZEP). During these sessions, we share our own experiences and emphasize the possibility of achieving academic success despite their disadvantaged backgrounds. At the meetings, we also feature talks by individuals who may have a positive impact on the students at different levels: academics and researchers, professional soccer players, former delinquents, etc. At the end of the meetings, we leave handouts and the organization’s contact information so that interested students can easily seek us out.

We would like to change the specific vision inherent to the working class vis-à-vis education. Our aim is to achieve academic success through creating a sense of solidarity, such that an individual’s initially negative conditions will be remedied by a collective boost, while still maintaining the uniqueness of each student’s future prospects. Our mission places an absolute and profound emphasis on academic success as the key to stimulating the imagination and to opening up a world of possibilities. Over time, certain social relationships may be improved, such as the interaction between “good” students and students with academic problems. Many of the latter simply do not understand that working hard in school will only serve to increase the possibility of fulfilling their personal and professional dreams. Our mission carries the hope of creating an inclination for knowledge, and of helping restore its essential importance in our lives.

  • [1] Abdelmalek Sayad, La double absence (The Double Absence), 1999
  • [2] General streams. These refer to concentrations within a high school that prepare students for the three different baccalauréat examinations offered at the end of high school studies: S or scientifique (hard sciences); ES or économique et social (economics and social sciences); L or litteraire (humanities). Contrast these general streams with technical streams and vocational diplomas, offered respectively in technical and vocational high schools. The latter are considered as inferior to generalized study high schools.
  • [3] Aziz Senni, L’ascenseur social est en panne… j’ai pris l’escalier (The Social Elevator is Out of Order So I Took the Stairs), 2005

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