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Defending the freedom to teach

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Defending the freedom to teach

An attack on the very principle of the freedom to teach contained in the Constitution: this is
how the French Bishops”€™ Conference has defined the reform of the detailed rules
for opening private schools outside of a contract, which was presented
yesterday by Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, the French Minister of Education, during a
press conference in which she highlighted new measures to ensure the right to
education for all children, with due respect for the values of the Republic and
the freedom of teaching. In a statement “€“ signed by Cardinal Jean-Pierre
Ricard, Archbishop of Bordeaux and President of the Episcopal Council for
Catholic teaching “€“ French bishops express
concern that the “€œfreedom of teaching is in danger”€ as the reform would
aim to replace the current rules of opening, which require the presentation and
acceptance of a prior declaration, with an “€œadministrative authorization”€ that
is allegedly more restricive.

For many decades, writes Cardinal Ricard, the Church has given a great deal
of attention towards freedom of teaching. Now, “€œthis new structure of prior
authorization would be, despite the assurances given, an attack on the very
principle of this constitutional freedom, by establishing the conditions for
opening educational institutions”€. The bishops expressed their “€œconcern and
strong reservations”€ over a reform whose motives “€“ most notably fighting
against an outbreak of Islamic radicalization in schools “€“ are nevertheless
“€œrightfully examined”€. This fight “€œis necessary, but not at any price and
certainly not at the cost of academic freedom”€, said the Cardinal, for whom the
current system of declaration, “€œfully implemented and strengthened as needed,
already responds to the legitimate control requirements of the State”€. There is
no need, therefore, to reform such important issues “€œwith haste and
inappropriate means”€. “€œOur country needs peace”€, concluded the President of the
Bishops Council for Catholic Teaching, “€œwhen resisting the violence that
afflicts it, and needs to uphold its choice for freedom when the democratic
model is under discussion. I believe in the wisdom of common sense. I appeal to the responsibility of the Government
and the National Minister of Education”€.


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