Was the 2022 baccalaureate SES test “strongly oriented towards liberalism”?

The subjects of the economic and social sciences specialty test have sparked controversy on social networks, due to titles interpreted as a questioning of the welfare state or the notion of social classes.
Question asked on May 12.

On Thursday, high school students in the final year passed their 2022 baccalaureate specialty exams. For four hours, those who chose economics and social sciences (SES) analyzed documents and discussed questions, the titles of which revealed on social networks are considered by some Internet users as “propaganda material” in favor of liberalism. On Twitter, a philosophy teacher believes that “the questions are outrageously politically oriented”, prompting the students to answer that “Social classes don’t mean anything, that social justice policies are shit, and that we will be saved from the ecological crisis by the start-up Nation”.

Available on the website of the Ministry of National Education, the SES specialty test asked high school students to respond to topics posted on social networks. The themes that seem to have most outraged Internet users are the following: “Using your knowledge and the documentary file, you will show that the approach, in terms of social classes, to account for French society, can be called into question.” The documentary file included an excerpt from the book The Singularist Society by sociologist Danilo Martuccelli dating from 2010, a TNS-Sofres survey questioning the French on their feeling of belonging to a social class and an INSEE table concerning household equipment in durable goods, according to socio-professional category in 2019.

Three knowledge mobilization questions, rated out of 10 points, also asked high school students: “Using two arguments, show that work is a source of social integration” ; “Based on an example, you will show that innovation can help push back the ecological limits of growth” ; “With the help of an example, you will show that the action of public authorities in favor of social justice can produce perverse effects.”

Too much recitation and not enough problematization

Beyond social networks, the controversy around the SES specialty test caused the Association of Economic and Social Science Teachers (Apses) to react, bringing together more than 2,100 high school teachers. Reached by CheckNews, its co-president, Benoît Guyon, is less indignant about the substance of the questions asked than about the form of the exercise: “These are not questions, but topics that invite you to recite the course. If the students nuance, if they question, they risk being penalized because they will be off topic. The students simply have to expose the mechanisms learned in class, without taking a step back.” He deplores this type of ordeal, “which does not invite problematization or debate”, and where the documents will serve as an example for “guide answers”, while in class, students are confronted with “theories that may be contradictory”. While “the role of an SES teacher is to present the issues of the debate, to try to give them the keys to understanding”, he adds.

Last year, the Apses had already published a press release taking up these same arguments, since the students had to work on the following statement: “You will show that labor market flexibilization policies make it possible to fight against structural unemployment.” The teachers’ association explained that “the use of the expression “you will show that”, as well as the sole mention of flexibilization policies, prevents candidates from presenting the limits of these policies or other instruments for combating unemployment, as their mention may even be considered irrelevant”.

The Apses also deplored that the students had available a survey commissioned by the Medef rather than a real scientific document on the subject. The association, which defends “a pluralistic teaching of economics and other social sciences”, demanded that this baccalaureate test be “redesigned to leave more room for debate, thus allowing students to exercise their critical thinking”.

“This is the skill we want to test”

On Twitter, sociologist Denis Colombi, author of Where does the money of the poor go (Payot & Rivage, 2020), took the opposite view of the indignation aroused on social networks, recalling that it is a baccalaureate test and not a dissertation from a master’s in sociology . “Students have studied over the course of the year the scope and limits of state action in favor of social justice. Among the limitations, they saw that there were debates around the possibility of perverse effects. Here, they are asked to mobilize part of the course: in all their knowledge, they must select only certain points. This is the skill we want to test – rather than seeing if they can recite a lesson plan as is, see if they can choose what relates to that question. It is already important to understand the exercise and its form.

On the various points covered in the subjects, he reminds us that the pupils are asked to cite the perverse effects of the action of the State but that they are not required to demonstrate that it is entirely harmful. Similarly, on the question relating to the approach in terms of social classes, he considers that“one can answer that gender/patriarchal inequalities or the decline of class consciousness call into question a reading purely in terms of social classes…”

Denis Colombi also regrets that the indignation of Internet users focused on sharing screenshots of certain questions, but failed to present other questions which invited students to highlight the importance of redistribution to reduce inequalities. , or that changes in employment can weaken the integrating role of work, in particular by making it precarious.

Joined by CheckNewsthe sociologist also points out that each knowledge mobilization question is scored on only 3 or 4 points, “which therefore does not require long developments”.

Patches available

Proposals for corrected proofs are available on specialized media sites such as the student Where Studyrama. For the three knowledge mobilization questions, their responses focus primarily on the required demonstration, without invoking nuances. By summarizing these expected answers: honest work because it allows an individual to obtain a social status thanks to his income, but also to access social protection; technical progress will make it possible to continue producing but with cleaner energy; and higher taxes can reduce consumption and therefore push companies to produce less, which would lead to more unemployment.

For the exercise dealing with social classes, students’ answers should be based on the documents showing that citizens have access to more consumer products, that they no longer see themselves as belonging to a class and that they define themselves now like “singularities”. The two answers, however, suggest qualifying the demonstration by proposing to recall, in the opening, that the concept of social class is still defended by certain researchers to understand social inequalities.

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Was the 2022 baccalaureate SES test “strongly oriented towards liberalism”?

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