The widely publicized unrest currently playing out in the streets of Paris and neighboring suburbs, has brought unwanted attention to some of the long-standing issues relating to how France has attempted to address the diversity of their population. Scenes of burning vehicles, rioters in the streets, and public protests of government policies, cause many to question what is at the root of such anger. As is usually the case when certain segments of a population engage in such vandalism and violence, it matters little what specific event triggered such a reaction. When residents feel disenfranchised, they become like a dry brush pile that is simply waiting for a match to be carelessly tossed. Before attempting to address the specifics of the grievances of the Islamic population as it relates to diversity, it is necessary to look back to the formation of the French Republic. According to Osler and Starkey (2002), the need to consolidate support for the Third Republic, in 1871, made it necessary for citizen education to become a high priority for the government. Such instruction, beginning in the public schools, was termed ‘instruction morale et civique’, and was viewed as even more important than learning to read or write.
That original goal of citizen education, which continues down to today, was to help integrate a diverse population into a single national culture. While individual families were welcome to train their children according to certain values, such values were never to take the place of the governing values promoted by the Republic. (Costa-Lascoux 1998)
Francois Stasse attempted to explain how this original concept translates into the modern era when he stated; "The notion of equality progressively comes to mean that all citizens confronted by a similar situation should be treated identically under the law. This means that no distinction can be made between citizens on the basis of race, religion or national origin." (Stasse 1997) In theory, that sounds like an admirable policy. But has France actually been able to produce that environment Under the French system - or at least under its founding principles - a strict separation must exist between religion and the schools. While this policy is rigorously enforced when it comes to Moslem or Jewish teachings, public funds currently support a large number of public schools - over 90% of which are Catholic. (Limage 2000) As a result Jews, Moslems, and others, who have no public support or major voice in France, are required to practice their religious and cultural diversity strictly in private - while the majority religion reaps public and monetary support.
Examining French cultural history even up to this point should begin to raise
Cultural Diversity 3
some red flags in regards to a country that has long claimed to champion civil rights, individual self-expression, and secularism. It would appear that the French