On April 9, 2019, Guillaume Carrel-Billiard, an intern at thecamp’s Lab aiming to study journalism, spent a day alongside the Hivers and young people from the École de la 2e Chance (School of Second Chances), during a week of observation dedicated to education. Here’s his story!
The third week of discovery has started for the Hivers and after Cities and Food, Education will be at the center of the debate. On Monday, they were asked to think about what education means to them; I imagine that they’ll be impatient to talk with the young people from Marseille’s École de la 2e Chance about their “atypical” educational backgrounds. They’re spending a day at thecamp. These 17 young people returning to school and the workforce have 17 unique experiences; they’re the kinds of people we’ll have to learn to integrate if we want to, once and for all, build the school of tomorrow.
L’École de la 2e Chance, in brief
It’s a nonprofit structure that welcomes young people aged 16 to 25, all school “dropouts” who risk being shut out of the workforce, with no job or qualifications. It accompanies them to help them rejoin the workforce and society. Each school of the E2C network (around 40 in France) is an independent structure, anchored in the local area and with ties to local companies. Each school provides its “interns” with individualized support, with pay and alternating work and study, for 4 to 18 months. Of the 15,000 interns in 2017, 3 out of 4 got a job after graduating.
10 a.m. — Ready, set, go!
Beginning of the day. Interns and Hivers are split into small mixed groups to introduce themselves. Only difficulty: the language! Out of our twenty Hivers, only five were able to translate French/English, which was pretty much the same for E2C interns. To overcome this challenge, and to make sure no group would isolate itself in the easy option of a common language, the facilitating team banned speaking for introductions! We all used funny gestures, drawing and evocative timelines.
10:30 a.m. — Values Without Borders
After breaking the ice, the two groups became one and discussions were going strong, now that we were able to talk again. Anglophones, francophones—it simply did not matter. It was time to be curious by whatever means possible. We called bilingual interpreters to the rescue, rushed to Google Translate, let hands illustrate the words we didn’t know. The one thing on the tip of everyone’s tongue was kindness.
We were given paper on which to write the most important thing we’ve ever learned. After a couple of disconcerted frowns, paper sheets were turned black with ink and quite a list of values. Each in turn, in groups of four, we exchanged mantras, for a long enough time and with enough people to realize one thing: some values we found to be more important than others—whether from Namibia or Marseille, whether 18 or 25 years old, whether atheist or Muslim—respect, ambition and effort are without borders.
11:30 a.m. — Intelligences and Debate
The facilitating team introduced the group to Howard Gardner’s Theory of multiple intelligences (we recommend visiting this Wikipedia page!). Everyone was asked to place oneself in the category they thought represent them best. The vast majority of Hivers and interns put themselves in intra-/interpersonal skills categories. Having trouble following? Simply think of it this way: out of 8 available options, most “guinea pigs” identified first and foremost as social and empathetic individuals, not focusing on the types of intelligences that most educational systems tend to overexploit (mainly verbal-linguistic and logical-mathematical intelligences). If every type of intelligence should be duly considered and welcomed, there was something quite reassuring about this improvised quantitative study. The results simply reminded us of the fact that we are social beings—a trait of character that is sometimes overshadowed by a more academic conception of intelligence.
Once we understood Howard Gardner’s theory, the group was invited to participate in a quick debate, fueled by a few questions. On the agenda: current educational approaches on trial. Opinions spurted, diverged and then converged into one conclusion: school is no longer the place to learn.
1:45 p.m. — Time-Capsules
After lunch and some pétanque, we went back to work. The facilitating team shared with us the afternoon’s objective: create a few “Time-Capsules” that symbolize all the things we’d want to have learnt within the next 10 years. No constraints. We could work in every way we chose to, and use all kinds of mediums. Once again, we split into groups and one of the teams was assigned to create the box—the Capsule—that would contain all the final projects.
After a couple rushed hours of discussion and breathless back-and-forth, each group presented its creation:
- A song to chant one’s resolutions in several languages
- The bag of a teenage professor who would teach adults about the values time erases
- An instruction manual to remind ourselves of who tomorrow’s ideal citizen should be
- A mobile with colored stickers, so that youth can be lulled to sleep contemplating ideas of tolerance and cultural exchanges
- A video promoting teleportation as facilitating encounters
- An virtual reality app to remind young people of the virtues of a world full of empathy, run by honest citizens—if ever society turns to the dark side
Once everyone finished, we agreed to reopen this box together, 10 years from now, one capsule at a time, to see if resolutions were kept. Crooked smiles on our faces: we’re not so sure about the whole “10 years from now” thing, but in the end, it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that today, we’re together, immortalizing our resolutions.
4:30 p.m. — Photo Op and Goodbye
Time-Capsules were sealed. We’re lining up like toy soldiers between the Auditorium and the Bar to take the “class photo” of an ephemeral year. The bus driving interns back to Marseille had already been waiting for over 15 minutes. Looks like punctuality is not really a priority for tomorrow’s world :).
Going into extra time, counting on the driver’s patience, we said goodbye at last. It was a funny moment, like the end of a very short and condensed summer camp. It was kind of chaos. I’d lie if I said one day was enough to create bonds that couldn’t be undone. It’d be naive to think we know each other well and would be calling each other; we know that. We know that day was merely a sort of break in our lives. We know it all became a memory the second the bus took off. We quickly understood all that and accepted it without melancholy. We know what was meaningful about that day was not shut away in the Time-Caspsules nor scribbled on Post-it notes—it was right there, a little deeper, more holistic, like a spark, a sketch, a stone in the foundation of the school of tomorrow.
A Day to Remember
Let’s be frank: that day was more about assessing the current state of education than the true beginning of a revolution. But our analysis was clear and unanimous: today’s educational systems are obsolete. Acknowledging it is a first step.
Of all young adults present that day, taking part in the debate, whether they graduated with honors or dropped out of school, everyone agreed: a lot of what they knew came from social interactions. It’s only logical that the Capsules ended up being all about tolerance, ecological awareness, living together—things that simply cannot be encapsulated in a school notebook nor cultivated through mental arithmetic.
Of course, what’s to be found in these Capsules is the common will to develop new skills—some wishing to spend the next 10 years learning more about photography or learn Spanish; but the main thing we all really wanted was to find the humanity we feel we lost, between childhood and adulthood. I mean—if school doesn’t teach us tolerance, doesn’t instill in us values of sharing, exchanging… is it even possible to talk about education?
1 day. 6 hours. Not a lot, to be honest. Not a lot, but just enough. 6 hours were plenty for a new school of 40 pupils to emerge and take a long recess together. That’s what it felt like, seeing them talk to each other, debate, open up, as if we’d recreated school in vitro, going back to its very essence: social bond. 40 kids, all equal, all in the same boat for a day, all nourishing the same ambition, cultivating empathy while sharing bits and pieces of very different lives. Like a trip down memory lane, with no distrust nor suspicion.
Let’s be clear—I’m not saying that day was an ideal nor a model to follow, for the mere reason that such things don’t exist. But it may have been a first step towards what education should place at the center of debates: the art of socializing. And if we start teaching that on top of what’s already innate, then maybe, tomorrow’s school will understand that it can learn as much from its students as they in turn have to learn from their teachers.