News in Slow French #9 - Controversies around French Education minister.

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News in Slow French #9 - Controversies around French Education minister.

Amélie Oudéa-Castéra is the person you see most in the French media at the moment, or almost.

Since her appointment, the new Minister of Education has been the subject of one controversy after another.

Welcome to another episode of Learn French with News.

Today, we're going to talk about Amélie Oudéa-Castéra, who has been France's new Minister of Education since January 2024.

You may never have heard about it in your country's media.

On the other hand, if you watch French channels, news talk shows or listen to French radio programs, you're bound to hear about her at one time or another.

Today, I'm going to tell you why this minister is the talk of the town.

In this video, you'll learn vocabulary about politics, education and the media.

By the way, don't forget that you can download the vocabulary sheet for this video by clicking on the link in the description.

As usual, I ask you to be kind in your comments.

The aim is not to make fun of someone, but to improve your French and work on your French with a current event.

Amélie Oudéa-Castéra began her term of office with a lie, and since then, the media has been all over her, with journalists investigating every nook and cranny of her life.

Let's take a step back first.

In May 2022, she was appointed Minister for Sport, Olympic Games and Paralympic Games.

In this position, she is quite discreet.

She's not much in the news.

Prior to this, she was General Manager of the French Tennis Federation.

In her youth, she played tennis at a fairly high level.

On January 8, 2024, Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne resigned.

Emmanuel Macron, the President, will then appoint a new Prime Minister, Gabriel Attal.

A cabinet reshuffle.

Changes in government took place.

Gabriel Attal forms his government. A reshuffle consists in changing a few ministerial portfolios.

So the themes on which the ministers are working.

Some ministers will be leaving the government.

New people will be appointed, and some will change jobs.

Gabriel Attal announces that it will be a tighter government.

This means there will be fewer ministers than usual.

It is in this context that Amélie Oudéa-Castéra will be given the additional role of Minister of Education, in addition to being Minister of Sport.

So it's been about a month and a half since she was appointed.

And in the space of a month and a half, there's been quite a bit of controversy, which we'll now take a look at.

I've broken them down into five points.

The first point is the opposition between public and private schools.

In France, you can choose to send your children to state, public or private schools.

In public schools, it'll be free, and in private schools, you'll have to pay.

The media soon revealed that the new Minister of Education was sending her three children to private school.

Some don't see this as a problem, but for others, and for some in the media, it's a stain on your role as Minister of Education to have these children enrolled in private schools.

Stain means it's not very coherent.

Her children attend a school called Stanislas.

It's a posh Catholic establishment known for being conservative, even very conservative.

The media asked her to justify herself and her choice to put her children in private schools. And she's going to make a speech that's not going to go down very well, that's going to be taken badly.

She says: "I'll tell you why we sent our children to Stanislas. Our eldest, Vincent, started out like his mother at the Littré public school. And then the frustration of his parents, my husband and I, who saw a lot of hours that weren't seriously replaced.

One package means a lot.

At some point, we got fed up, like the parents of thousands of families who made the choice to look for a different solution.

We lived on rue Stanislas. Schooling our children at Stanislas was a choice of proximity.

So she justifies herself by saying that she had to change her child's school because there were too many teacher absences in the public school where they were.

Unfortunately for her, Libération, a daily newspaper, is about to make some revelations.

The journalists investigated and, first of all, they discovered that her son was in kindergarten at the time, so he was three years old.

Then he discovers that he was there for barely six months, which is a very short time.

And last but not least, there have never been any unreplaced absences at this school.

This was confirmed by other parents at the time.

The Minister won't actually admit to lying, but she will say that the truth proves her wrong.

Which means more or less the same thing.

So she's going to the school to publicly apologize to the teachers.

But it's not going to be very well received.

She'll be whistled at, she'll be booed.

Above all, his comments will spark a national debate on competition between state and private education.

And the lack of social mix, i.e. in private schools, there are more people from well-off families, so there's little social mix.

Teachers' unions will be shocked by these remarks, and will denounce the destabilization of and contempt for public schools.

Contempt means looking down on someone or something, saying that something or someone is not as good.

One of the unions is even going to sue her for defamation over her comments on public education.

The second controversy is directly linked to the first.

In fact, it directly concerns the school where she has chosen to send her children, Stanislas.

I told you earlier that it was a school with very conservative values.

Amélie Oudéa-Castéra's sons are in single-sex classes.

That means they're in all-boys classes.

Girls and boys are not mixed, and that's something very rare in France.

In France, 0.07 % of schools offer single-sex classes.

Again, for some, this may seem a little out of keeping with her role and the values she must convey as Minister of Education, since the Education Code mandates all establishments, both public and private, to promote gender diversity and equality.

Following initial revelations about Stanislas made by an investigative media outlet called Mediapart, an administrative inquiry was opened to find out what was really going on at the school.

A 30-page report by the General Inspectorate of National Education hit the media a few weeks ago.

In this report, we discover that certain practices at Stanislas, and therefore at the school, are contrary to the law.

Classes in Catholic religion are compulsory, which is not in line with the law.

Secondly, the report reveals that in some courses, speakers have used homophobic, sexist or anti-abortion language, or have promoted conversion therapy.

So conversion therapies are controversial processes designed to change the sexual orientation of someone who is homosexual, for example.

We'd like him to become heterosexual through therapy.

Documents dating back to 2011, which were present on the school's website until 2013, also prove that homophobic lessons on homosexuality were given to students.

On the subject of abortion, booklets were also distributed to students, stating that abortion always means the voluntary killing of an innocent human being.

In this report, we can see that sexist comments were also made, and that certain choices or behaviors on the part of the school or teachers perpetuated gender stereotypes.

So between boys and girls.

Even though Stanislas is a private school, it still receives subsidies, money from the state to operate.

And she was receiving money from Paris City Hall.

Following all these revelations, the Paris City Council will immediately stop its subsidies to the school, which amounted to 1.3 million euros.

The third controversy, once again linked to the Stanislas school, concerns a pass allegedly given to Amélie Oudéa-Castéra's son.

In France, if you want to enter a "grande école" or business school, you can take what are called "classes préparatoires".

In general, students will even shorten and say prepas or a prépa.

Students enter a two-year preparatory class at the age of 18.

Stanislas offers a preparatory class.

To enter a prep school, the prep school of your choice, you have to follow a national system which is supposed to give everyone the opportunity to enter the prep school of their choice.

Except that on January 20, 2024, Mediapart revealed that a number of Stanislas students, including one of Amélie Oudéa-Castéra's sons, had been given a free pass to access the Stanislas preparatory class without going through this national process.

As you'd expect, it has once again caused a stir.

The fourth controversy surrounding the Minister of Education concerns her remuneration. In her previous position, when she was Managing Director of the French Tennis Federation.

This information is not new, but the information and videos have come to light in the light of all the news surrounding the Minister.

As Managing Director of the French Tennis Federation, she earned €500,000 a year.

To give you an idea, the average gross annual salary in France is around €39,000.

So here, we're at almost thirteen times that.

But what was particularly shocking was what she said about this remuneration to justify it.

You'll see, she speaks quite colloquial French.

If I compare my current salary with the number of hours I work every week, day, night and weekends, I'm not well paid.

So s'enfourner, it's a really colloquial word for do, the hours I do.

And work means work.

She will also declare that no taxpayer money ends up in her salary.

So taxpayers are people who pay their taxes in France.

But it's not true, and she'll have to deny it a few hours later, because the French Tennis Federation receives subsidies from the State and therefore taxpayers' money.

And finally, the fifth point that is causing controversy and controversy around this minister, concerns the subject of meritocracy and the elite's entre-soi.

So, the elite's "entre-soi" means that the powerful always keep to themselves and are somewhat disconnected from the reality on the ground, from the reality of the middle class, so to speak.

Indeed, it has been revealed in the media that his father is the head of Publicis.

Publicis is a French multinational in the advertising sector, so it's a very, very big job, a very important job.

It was also revealed that she was the niece of a well-known French political journalist named Alain Duhamel.

As for her husband, he's the former head of Société Générale, a huge bank in France.

One of his recent speeches, which was filmed, perfectly illustrates the distance that can exist between ordinary citizens - people like you and me - and the so-called elites.

She meets children from a public school, some of whom are wearing sneakers.

It's a fairly banal event.

A lot of children wear sneakers as part of their everyday footwear.

But she seems rather astonished and will make this remark.

I notice that three of you are wearing sneakers.

Did you take the opportunity to move around a bit in the playground?

And one of the kids says he doesn't understand, that it's just the shoes he wears every day.

And the Prime Minister next door will insist that they've had gym class and that's why they're wearing sneakers.

So obviously, a lot of the media and columnists are going to laugh at this sequence.

Notably on the show Quotidien, which deciphers current affairs in a slightly offbeat way, where they'll make fun of her by saying "mon Dieu, the kids in the audience are wearing sneakers."

And by the way, they're also going to read part of Stanislas's rule book on air, where we understand why she's surprised.

That's because no sneakers are allowed on a daily basis at this school, and only leather dress shoes are allowed.

One controversy after another for Amélie Oudéa-Castéra has crystallized a great deal of tension among public school teachers.

On Thursday 1ᵉʳ February, 1 in 5 teachers were on strike in France, on the initiative of various teachers' unions, some of whom are calling for the resignation of the Minister of Education.

However, on Friday February 2, on TF1, a major national TV channel, she stated that she had no intention of resigning.

That's it for today.

I hope you enjoyed this news item, and that you were able to learn some vocabulary about education, politics and the media through a subject that interested you.

Don't forget you can download the free vocabulary sheet from this video.

If you liked it, of course, put a j'aime.

Subscribe if you're not already a subscriber so you don't miss any of my videos, and I'll see you soon.

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