Protected by Fundamental Rights?

The first «National Conference Against Sectarian Aberrations» took place in France on March 9 and 10. Convened by the Secretary of State for Civil Rights, a wide range of actors gathered with the aim of proposing «strong and concrete measures […] for the next ten years.»

As usual, Waldorf schools were also targeted. Some tweets by the Secretary of State before the event showed that she has a particularly negative attitude towards these schools. The debates also helped paint a negative picture of Waldorf schools, although some dissenting voices were also heard.

The Parents’ Association of Waldorf Schools in France (ANPAPS) published a strident statement defending the right of parents to choose a different pedagogical approach, and denouncing slanderous rumors and the lack of seriousness of some journalism. The Federation of Waldorf Schools in France reported on the transparency of the schools, recalling their willingness to engage in dialogue and their openness to receiving journalists.

One might have feared that the press would use this event as an occasion to again spread a series of malicious articles against the schools, but this didn’t happen. The newspaper «Le Monde» even republished an old article entitled «What Exactly is Meant by the Word ‹Sect›?» The article offers a nuanced analysis and concludes: If these groups suspected of being sects are not committing legally sanctioned crimes, «then the diverse ideas, worldviews, beliefs, and practices of these minorities, even if they are unusual and ‹bizarre› in the eyes of the majority, are protected by fundamental rights and secularism […].»

Ultimately, this is what it’s all about: freedom of educational choice, cultural diversity, and the protection of minorities in the face of a French public that sometimes has a hard time tolerating diversity and alternatives.

Translation Eliza Rozeboom
Image Felt puppets. Photo: Xue Li

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