Formez vos bataillons: French school children

29th August 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Aug 28 (AFP) - From this autumn small French children will be taught to call for the impure blood of their foes to water their fields when learning the national anthem 'La Marseillaise' becomes compulsory in primary schools.

PARIS, Aug 28 (AFP) - From this autumn small French children will be taught to call for the impure blood of their foes to water their fields when learning the national anthem 'La Marseillaise' becomes compulsory in primary schools.

A circular from the education ministry to mark the return to school after the long summer holidays on Friday says primary schools "offer the teaching of civic education that compulsorily includes the learning of the national anthem and its history".

Since 2002 teaching about France's major national symbols (anthem, flag, national day) has been part of the primary school curriculum. But the words of the anthem were not routinely taught.

Teachers have not been overwhelmed with enthusiasm for teaching words that begin with a call to arms and refer to enemies come to cut the throats of the audience's sons.

According to Gilles Moindrot, general secretary of one teachers' union, the initiative is "ridiculous" compared with the need to fight against failure in school, though he agrees it is "legitimate to give children the feeling they belong to a community".

But he warns that "a presentation without any historical backup would be dangerous" given some of the words in the anthem's 12 bellicose verses.

For Luc Bérille, general secretary of another teachers' organisation, the decision is "ideological and not pedagogical" and he compares it to recent legislation advocating a "positive presentation of colonialism".

Bérille thinks it would be "an exercise of parrots consisting of repeating incomprehensible words if it is not placed in a historical context".

The song was composed by Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle and was originally known as the marching song of the Rhine Army.

It was renamed "La Marseillaise" after it was sung by revolutionary forces from the southern port of Marseille as they marched into Paris, and became the official national anthem in 1795.

Banned several times by Napoleon and Napoleon III because of its revolutionary overtones, the anthem was finally reinstated in 1879, and its status confirmed in the constitutions of the Fourth and Fifth Republics in 1946 and 1958.

There was outrage among rightwing politicians when it was booed at a football match in Paris between France and Algeria and politicians in general have been concerned at ignorance of young people about the anthem.

Several European countries (Austria, Greece, Poland, Russia, Serbia and Turkey, for example) require the national anthem to be taught in schools.

Belgium, Britain and the Netherlands, among others, do not, and in Spain compulsory teaching of the anthem was abolished because of the memories of the Franco dictatorship it awakened.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news, La Marseillaise, national anthem, French schools, French patriotism

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