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Manifesto against the disconnection of the elites

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Manifesto against the disconnection of the elites

For responsible future leaders

Project : integration of a real and regular experience of social reality into university and ‘grandes écoles’ courses

by AV and JBM

Although regularly depicted, the « disconnection » of certain political and economic elites does hardly provoke any reactions other than the odd criticism in public or in the media without any further consequences, as if discord and resignation should triumph over change. However, these practices and attitudes are not natural/ innate/ inbred/ hereditary, but acquired and transmitted: They are the result of an education and socialization centred around a similar social background and with little contact with others. The end of conscription has even reinforced this problem by eliminating the last remnants of a mixture of people from different social backgrounds in our society. Being acquired, the practices and attitudes of certain officials and leaders can change, if only the regard for others and the relationship to others were trained in the first place. An experience of civic commitment as an integral part of university studies compulsory for all future leaders in our society may contribute to realize this objective.

I. Statement : disconnection of the elites and lack of social cohesion

Political and business leaders, officials at the head of cultural and social institutions, a great number of the people occupying social and professional top positions in France have never, or only very rarely, been personally faced with the disparities and inequalities tearing this society apart before they actually occupy these positions. However, it’s within this very society and on its behalf that these people will be asked to define objectives and to take decisions in the course of their professional careers. Universities, let alone ‘grandes écoles’, can no longer continue to educate students and future leaders without making them experience the realties of our society during their studies.

II. Elites, social inequalities and equal opportunity : a question inappropriately asked

The question of the gap between elites and society is too often reduced to the promotion of equal opportunity, e.g. some initiatives in favour of a more diversified recruitment of elites, as if the access to ‘grandes écoles’ granted to a small number of disadvantaged, but particularly meritorious students was sufficient to solve the problems of social inequality and unrepresentative leaders.

III. Situation of measures in place : necessary but insufficient

The present measures (community service agency, measures in favour of a better social mix in ‘grandes écoles’ and students associations) are absolutely necessary but limited: As to students, their commitment is conceived and seen as just parallel, if not secondary, compared to their proper studies. The three types of action proposed below are all voluntary; so they will change things only moderately.

IV. Project : an adaptable and compulsory module centred around a civic commitment

What ?

To be pertinent, such a module dedicated to a “civic commitment” has to be: — fully integrated into the curriculum, — compulsory for all ‘Master’ students and in ‘grandes écoles’, — recognized by being evaluated and validated by ECTS credits for the course in order to promote students’ motivations — diversified as to the activities offered to students so that this civic commitment will not be regarded as an imposed compulsory labour but as a formative experience in which students can participate responsibly.

How?

This module will work thanks to the establishment of partnerships with local and regional councils, public institutions (schools, hospitals, museums) and associations. It could also rely on students associations at universities and at ‘grandes écoles’. Examples: private lessons, paying visit to old-age pensioners, organising visits of cultural institutions for the disadvantaged, work with partner organisations (Restos du cœur, Secours populaire).

Why ?

A civic commitment compulsory for all students will allow to overcome all the objections regularly uttered in the recurrent debate directed against the compulsory character of a community service: organisation, costs, rejection by students. All this is neither about charity nor about a good conscience easily acquired. It is about the qualification of future leaders in tune with the society they live in. Based on measures allowing more social integration and different students associations already in place, without any allowance and supported by a variety of possible commitments, the establishment of a community service for students is not only possible: it is necessary.