August 2, 2021

In the Netherlands, teachers still in shock over Samuel Paty’s assassination

BRUSSELS LETTER

There are certain subjects that he no longer deals with, ” because’[il a] a family “, writes a teacher. Another says to himself “More careful and more worried”. A third confides that he no longer evokes certain themes “For fear of intimidation and violence”. The assassination by beheading of Samuel Paty, on October 16, 2020, in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine (Yvelines), still impresses in the Netherlands.

So much so that two associations of history, social sciences and civic education teachers questioned their members to determine what influence this event had had on them and their practices. After the death of the French teacher, killed by a Chechen refugee, Dutch teachers had been threatened because they had shown caricatures of Muhammad, like the one their French colleague had taken from Charlie Hebdo.

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Some 150 teachers filled out the questionnaire sent to them and a third of them admit better preparing their lessons but also approaching them with fear.

Interesting, but less than the testimonies given anonymously by the teachers. Doubts and fears emerge among them when it comes to tackling Islamism, the question of gender, the murder of African-American George Floyd by a white policeman, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Armenian genocide or even colonialism. In some establishments, the question of the Shoah is no longer mentioned at all, explains in De Volkskrant, Ton van der Schans, President of the Association of History Teachers.

A polarized society

The University of Amsterdam, for its part, wanted to measure the adhesion of young people to the concept of democracy. She surveyed a representative sample of high school students and half of them responded that they had no ” no opinion ” or that democracy was not “Not important” in their eyes.

The first political assassinations in the country’s history (populist leader Pim Fortuyn in 2002, then filmmaker Theo van Gogh in 2004) had however prompted the authorities to develop civic education programs. It has proven very difficult to impose them in a country where freedom of education is a sacrosanct principle.

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In 2016, an official report therefore concluded that the project had failed, especially since at the end of secondary school, history is an optional course and Dutch schools say they are generally overwhelmed by other tasks that are imposed on them: to manage, for example, problems of drug addiction or obesity.

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