“Marching in step and saluting the flag, we are no longer there!”  : the Hérault Education League would like another SNU

“Marching in step and saluting the flag, we are no longer there!” : the Hérault Education League would like another SNU

President of the Ligue de l’Enseignement de l’Hérault, professor of law and political science in Montpellier, Michel Miaille takes a critical look at the Universal National Service and campaigns for a formula more geared towards active citizenship.

Has the notion of national service, military or not, always existed?

All societies have, in one way or another, according to their own principles, organized the mobilization of young age groups. In antiquity, the Greek Sparta regimented kids from 7 to 20 years old in a very military way. During the long period of the Ancien Régime, it was by category that young people were mobilized in France.

The nobility was studying and joined the clergy or the army, the bourgeoisie was trained in the trades that made it live and the peasantry had no choice, they reproduced the work of their peers. For very political reasons related to the defense of the territory and then to the Napoleonic armies, we then got into the habit of military conscription in different forms since the revolution, which could range from three to seven years.

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It was also a way of homogenizing a social class which was closely linked to the peasantry. It was in the army that we discovered that there were different patois. During the war of 14, entire regiments of Bretons did not understand French.

The end of this national service, in 1997, was something inevitable?

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Given the modernization of the armies, the change in the nature of the conflicts, it was not abnormal to change the system. The idea of ​​a universal national service seems to me a good idea, but not in the forms that the government has planned.

The confederation of the Education League has made a more acceptable counter-project, linked to the triptych of youth, citizenship, emancipation. We defend the idea that we must teach young people the elements of their citizenship, their future responsibilities, and do so in a pedagogy of emancipation and not of authority.

Do you regret the too military side?

Learning to march and salute the flag is very good, but today, we are no longer there. The interest, it seems to me, would be to devote a few months to learning social codes, institutions, learning above all about one’s own responsibility, about engaging in educational work of all kinds, vis-à-vis vis a community for example. Good training, based on a project that the young person will assume and which commits him to becoming a citizen.

The UNS already contains awareness of different forms of commitment, ecological in particular.

There are indeed pieces of this SNU that we can find not too bad. It’s the overall logic that I don’t like. We gave the organization to the army and we ask popular education movements like the League to simply lend premises when they have experience.

This is not how we will form a generation that will fight against inequalities, racism, feminicides and the rest. It is not just a question of living together but of living together on what basis? On the basis of authority or on the basis of a chosen and shared project, of a questioning?

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Making it mandatory wouldn’t be a good thing?

No, I think national service should be voluntary, chosen and should be a springboard for young people who are building their future, allowing them to discover places they never imagined and to project themselves into a future which they might not have thought of. What is important is learning to live with concern for others, learning with a kind of active citizenship.



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