ACCEPT PLURALISM French Launch Event
The launching event of the Accept Pluralism project in France took place on February 9, 2011 in the CERI - Sciences Po (conference room). 40 people attended the event (15 academic; 6 administrative officials; 5 journalists; 3 officials of local government; 4 members of NGO; 1 member of a think tank and 1 union activist).
Riva Kastoryano presented the context of the research and the question of national identity in the EU 25. She outlined the contrasting pictures of diversity in each country and highlighted that there are different types of minorities (historical minorities and migration-related minorities). She insisted on the necessity to reconsider tolerance and go beyond the term. She also mentioned that France is reluctant to adopt a differential approach because of the Republican frame although one can observe that differential approaches are adopted in practice.
Angéline Escafré-Dublet presented the Accept Project: the consortium, the objectives of the project, the basic definition of tolerance it adopted, the empirical research and what are the expected results and target audience. Daniel Sabbagh offered a Key Note Address about the notion of diversity in France. He recalled the origin of the term (US) and outlined how, in France, it has been used to refer to various kinds of individuals and groups in situations where ethnic categories are not regarded as legitimate (by politicians and individuals in general). He argued that it introduced confusion between two important dimensions: discrimination and recognition. Those two important issues end up being conflated in one similar denomination; they pertain to “diversity issues”. This may be convenient for politicians who give the impression to cover a wide range of issues. However, it does not help clarifying the public debate.
After these presentations, a round table brought together Hakim Hallouche, Benoît Falaize and Françoise Lorcerie and was animated by Veronique Soulé.
Véronique Soulé (journalist, Libération , French daily Newspaper) introduced the discussion by highlighting the fact that some schools know very well how to deal with diversity, but in some other schools where the population is homogenous and does not comprise any students of immigrant descent the understanding of diversity is unfortunately very low.
Hakim Hallouche (diversity manager, Sciences Po) presented the experience of the agreements that Sciences Po signed to favor the access of minority students to this highly competitive school and how this specific student population have evolved and integrate in the school. He outlined that most of them have been open to international experiences and have found jobs abroad.
Françoise Lorcerie (sociologist, University of Aix en Provence) gave a broad picture of the state of “ethnicity” in French education system. She argued that the French education system is “embarrassed with diversity” and that since the early 80s the discourse omits to talk about diversity. The structural conditions to tackle diversity and foster tolerance are absent from the official discourse and the official training of school teachers. She compared the recommendation given to teachers in the UK that comprises recommendation to respect diversity, promote equality and give self-confidence to pupils with the same set of recommendations in France that are articulated in terms of republican values and representation of the State through teachers.
Benoît Falaize (historian, University of Cergy) talked about the content of the teaching and highlighted the recent debate on the teaching of colonial history, the abolition of slavery and immigration history. This has led to an extension of the curriculum and new handbooks are being written that include texts on decolonization and the abolition of slavery. He suggested that this operated a breach with the former practice of the 70s and the 80s when well-intended professors addressed pupils of immigrant descend in reference to their country of origin.
After those presentations, questions arose from the audience: about the comparison between France and the United Kingdom; whether one should be optimistic towards the evolution of the curriculum or not. They were also participants in the audience who told their experience of handling specific diet demands (halal) as representatives of the local government in charge of secondary and high schools. It was noted that the question of the diversity of some population should lead us to reflect on what the majority is, and how it imposes itself as a dominating norm.
For more see also the announce on the CERI website
2:30 pm Introduction and presentation of the project
Riva Kastoryano, CNRS/Sciences Po-CERI
Angéline Escafré-Dublet, Sciences Po-CERI
3:00 pm Keynote Speaker:
The practice of diversity: the French case
4:30 pm Roundtable
Moderator: Véronique Soulé, journalist, head of the Education section of newspaper Libération
Daniel Peltier, Headteacher of Lycée Alfred Nobel, Clichy-sous-Bois, Paris region
Benoît Falaize, History Professeur, University Cergy Pontoise
Hakim Hallouch, Diversity Manager, Sciences Po
Françoise Lorcerie, CNRS/IREMAM, Aix-en-Provence
4:30 pm Coffee Break
5:00 pm Discussion with the audience
 The communication staff in the CERI sent the email invitation on January 26, 2011, to a file of 200 people comprising academics, journalists, local and national administrative officials, NGOs and policy makers. A banner announcing the event was also posted on Sciences Po website.