Education nationale et minorites en France
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The perception of France as a single indivisible entity has been the subject of debate, controversy and protest for the past 500 years. The massive influx of extra-European immigrants since the 1960s has served to fuel the fire of this contentious issue as well as to exacerbate further the situation of established minorities. This paper proposes to examine and to challenge the policy of France’s centralist government to exclude both established regional languages and the languages of the newly formed migrant minorities in the context of a continuing official perception of France as a homogeneously cultural and linguistic entity. This perception presents significant socio-historical contradictions and is also contrary to concepts of the recognition of minorities and their right to cultural and linguistic autonomy common in most of the rest of the European Union. Among the more extreme events that have marked this controversial topic was an October 2004 report presented to the French parliament that sought to link juvenile delinquency to the practice of not speaking French in the domestic domain, a “crime” ultimately imputable to “migrant” parents. This came ahead of a debate in the French parliament in January 2005 on the modification of the French constitution in preparation for the referendum on the acceptance of the European constitution. The linguistic aspect of the debate carried strong innuendos that the public acceptance of plurilingualism (in terms of the languages of both established and new minorities) would in fact undermine the republican principles of the French nation state. The ongoing debate on linguistic and cultural issues would seem to indicate that the nation state created by the middle class as a result of the French revolution no longer corresponds to the realities of the modern world and that it runs the danger of imploding under the external and internal pressures that France is currently facing.