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The Role of Education in France in the Shift of La Laïcité


Presentation title with formatting

The Role of Education in France in the Shift of La Laïcité

Presentation author(s)

Elizabeth North ’21, Renton, Washington

Majors: Religious Studies; French
Minor: Philosophy

Abstract

This presentation examines the role that education has played in redefining the purpose of secularism (la laïcité) in France. There has been a shift in the meaning of secularism in France from Enlightenment thinking about separating the government from Catholicism to recent efforts that equate secularity with a white national identity; public education has played a central role throughout this process.

With the rise of secularism in France came the creation of public education as a way to discourage citizens from voting for a Catholic government. Now, public education is a site of conflict surrounding the secular in France and is used as a tool for France to uphold a white national identity with its roots in Islamophobia. The example of the veil demonstrates how and why education has become a site of ongoing conflict in France surrounding la laïcité.

The conflicts surrounding the veil have been very prominent in public schools following the 2004 ban of conspicuous religious symbols in public in France. The distinction between public and private spheres and the differentiation of “conspicuous” and “inconspicuous” religious symbols both demonstrate the role that education has played in this shift of the meaning of secularism.

This presentation looks specifically at France, however, it sheds broader light on the role of secularism in the state and the effect of secularism on those (both citizens and states) who do not fit into the secular agenda.

Sponsor

Natalie Gummer

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