“Can we not envisage that the school changes its position in terms of knowledge, opens up to the complex and makes room for the uncertain? »

This column appears in “Le Monde de l’éducation”. If you are subscribed to World, you can subscribe to this weekly newsletter by following this link.

In the media as in bookstores, uncertainty is essential at the moment. Not without reasons, by the way. The ENS-Ulm even organised, on September 9, a rich “night of uncertainty”, which proposed to cover around this theme the most varied fields of knowledge, but also of political action. Two focal points, very often: the evocation of a certain number of uncertainties which seem to impose themselves on the basis of questions of the climate, of “post-truth”, of democracy or even of peace, but also a reflection on the discourses themselves relating to uncertainty. Is it entirely to be perceived negatively? Is it so characteristic of our time or was it not more flagrant in other times? Is it similarly perceived according to latitudes and social and cultural affiliations?

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However, there is a link that is generally not made: almost no one is surprised to see that the question of the impact of uncertainty, in its different avatars, is not generally asked about the education. Because finally, if we often wonder, for example, how to decide in times of uncertainty, such as during the health crisis, or how to manage for ourselves the uncertainties of our lives, for example in the face of work or the climate, or how to act in politics as a citizen in a game that is too troubled, should we not also ask ourselves how to teach in this complex context of uncertainty, on the scale of teachers as well as that of systems? The question is much more charged with meaning than one would imagine, which may explain why we often prefer to go offshore, instead of seizing it.

Institutional writing

The school, you have to start there, has a founding pact with certainty. If, in a framework more or less linked to temples or palaces, there were “schools”, it was to transmit knowledge that deserved this trust, to support skills, and education, already in the family, is a good part of of the immense equipment with which humans have equipped themselves against the unpredictable. The knowledge disseminated by the school, whether they were religious for a long time, whether they had, after the sixteenthe century, raised from a secular culture, or whether they have been organized, more recently, into disciplines, have always claimed infallibility, at least methodical. But let’s look further in two directions.

From the moment when school became not only obligatory by law, but above all indispensable in fact, by promising everyone if only social survival, society counted on the certainties that this implied: grades, diplomas, orientation, even the assurance that there is what has strangely been called an “educational system” where everyone would find their place. Institutional writing and certainties.

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“Can we not envisage that the school changes its position in terms of knowledge, opens up to the complex and makes room for the uncertain? »