During the very beautiful national memorial service for Samuel Paty in the courtyard of the Sorbonne on Wednesday evening, a 14-year-old student read a letter from Albert Camus that he had written to his former teacher in Alger, Louis Germain. He wrote it on November 19, 1957, a few days after he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.
“Dear Mr. Germain, I have waited for the noise that surrounds me these days to subside a little, to write to you a few words from the bottom of my heart. I have just been given too great an honor, which I neither aspired nor aspired to. But when I got the message my first thought, after my mother’s, was of you Without you, without the loving hand you gave to the poor little boy that I was, without your teaching and example all this would be did not happen.
I don’t give much in this way of honoring, but at least it is meant to be an opportunity to let you know what you have meant and still mean to me and to make sure that your efforts, your work, you Put in Hart, still live with a little schoolboy who, despite his age, has never ceased to be your grateful student.
As I listened to these words read in front of the casket of the history teacher who was murdered in the street, I wondered how many of these days, like Albert Camus, have been deeply moved by a teacher who formed them, perhaps even the course changed her life. There are not many such teachers.
A teacher can shape a whole life
The school of the French Republic, which has been hailed in the air since the death of Samuel Paty, is more reminiscent of gloomy hours: how many deadly dull teachers without empathy floated in monotonous voices over their dull curriculum? In my country – this was true for my generation and unfortunately still too often today – classes are held head-on: the almighty teacher stands alone in front of his obedient and usually indifferent students.
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And then comes a history teacher who wants to promote the critical spirit of his students, who brings into his class a debate that has moved France and the whole world for years: what is freedom of speech? How far can you go? Is It Correct To Publish Cartoons?
For me, the history lesson was a series of data that I had to memorize – what would I have given to have such a teacher!
Today I think about my teacher. An Alsatian, benevolent and aware of her mission that has shaped generations of female students. As with all schools in France, the tricolor swung across the entrance. It should remind us that the values of the republic are taught there: freedom, secularity, equality, tolerance. “What a responsibility!” Says the 96-year-old lady I visit every time I return to my hometown. “You can help a child to get out of his or her environment. But you can also do a lot of damage and last him out forever. ”
Samuel Paty taught in Conflans-Saint-Honorine, a suburb of Paris previously known only for its beautiful, delicate name and seemed far removed from the ridiculous violence it has just become. Samuel Paty was killed for doing his job. Translation from French: Odile Kennel