In the 15th century, Joan of Arc united the French against the English invaders. Now, the French are debating whether teaching about Joan of Arc and other historical figures will create a sense of national identity, reports the New York Times.
“In France, where the state sets school programs nationwide, the country’s understanding of its past — and how it uses education to shape young citizens — has become a hot-button issue,” reports the Times.
Some want schools to teach a “national narrative.”
“Once you become French, your ancestors are the Gauls,” said former president Nicolas Sarkozy, a candidate in the right-wing party primaries.
Socialist education minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem believes the curriculum “should reflect changes in society.”
After last year’s terrorist attacks in Paris, the Education Ministry added more hours dedicated to teaching about secularism and the republican values of liberty, equality and fraternity.
However, there’s no consensus on teaching citizenship, said Patricia Legris, a professor of contemporary history at the University of Rennes. “Should it be a national citizen? Or a European citizen? A world citizen?”
Americans wouldn’t have much trouble with that question. But getting from e pluribus to unum isn’t easy.