Teaching of “Gender Theory” Causes Controversy in French Schools

Playgrounds at a number of French primary schools were a bit less noisy, as dozens of schools endured student boycotts. Photo: OliBac for flickr.

Playgrounds at a number of French primary schools were a bit less noisy this past week, as dozens of schools endured student boycotts. Photo: OliBac for flickr.

Over the past week, a small movement in the French school system has caused a large stir. On Friday, January 24and Monday, January 27, schools across the country saw a dip in attendance, the result of boycotts stemming from parental concern over the alleged teaching of “gender theory” in schools.

According to a Le Monde interview with the principal of a primary school in Évreux, a commune in the Eure department of northern France, a number of parents received a text message from an unknown sender, reading, “The choice is simple, either we accept ‘gender theory’ (they will teach our children that they are not born girl or boy, but that they choose to be! Not to mention the sexual education planned for kindergarten for the beginning of the 2014 school year, with a demonstration and teaching of masturbation from the crib or nursery…) or we defend the future of our children.”

In response, the school in Évreux hosted a meeting with concerned parents to discuss the goals of the school’s “ABCDs of Equality” plan, a program meant to promote gender equality and fight against stereotypes in education.

Évreux was not the only town that saw instances of truancy. Of some 48,000 schools in the French education system, about 100 were affected by the boycott. While most regions were entirely unaffected, some saw large disturbances in school attendance, such as in Strasbourg, where two schools had close to a third of students missing.

The sender of the text message appears to have been targeting highly religious communities, particularly those in Muslim neighborhoods. This targeting in particular has drawn criticism from the country’s numerous teaching unions, outraged that the students who are suffering from this boycott often live in areas whose school performance is already struggling. They cited concern that such disturbances were taking instructional time away from the students who need it most.

Unions are also worried by the distrust such protests project upon the education system. It is a “smear campaign with high Internet visibility that sullies the institution and teachers,” notes Sébastien Sihr, a member of the National Union Unit of Trachers, or SNUipp (Syndicat National Unitaire des Instituteurs).

In light of the media attention surrounding the isolated issue, his words seem to ring true. In addition to gracing a number of domestic headlines, French newspaper Le Monde published a political cartoon alongside its coverage of the boycott. In it, one of three protesters remarks, “We are not very numerous, all the same,” to which another assures, “we will make them talk about us.”

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  1. […] also decried a new “gender equality” curriculum being piloted in four French public school districts, saying that children are being […]

  2. […] Teaching of “gender theory” causes controversy in French schools. Over the past week, a small movement in the French school system has caused a large stir. On Friday, January 24and Monday, January 27, schools across the country saw a dip in attendance, the result of boycotts stemming from parental concern over the alleged teaching of “gender theory” in schools. According to a Le Monde interview with the principal of a primary school in Évreux, a commune in the Eure department of northern France, a number of parents received a text message from an unknown sender, reading, “The choice is simple, either we accept ‘gender theory’ (they will teach our children that they are not born girl or boy, but that they choose to be! Not to mention the sexual education planned for kindergarten for the beginning of the 2014 school year, with a demonstration and teaching of masturbation from the crib or nursery…) or we defend the future of our children.” […]

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