Mediation at School

The School kept in step with the trend first and foremost. With a background in particular consisting of school standardisation, the evolution of the family structure and the emergence of a ‘teen culture,’ it became – and still remains – the site of a normative pluralism, a cohabitation of different norms, itself a crucible conducive to the emergence of a culture of mediation. ‘Whether they aim at resolving conflicts (in other words restoring social ties) or at preventing them (that is to say preserving social ties), the practices of mediation [...] try to take into consideration diversity (social, ethnic, cultural, etc.) and the plurality of the normative orders which characterise our societies,’ writes Christophe Dubois, a Postdoctoral Researcher at the ULg, in La Mediation Scolaire. The School thus metamorphosed in such a way that it now led to the cohabitation of on the one hand a pedagogical field and on the other hand a ‘social field’, a multi-norm ‘life environment.’ In previous times embedded together, the School’s pedagogical function on the one hand, and the values quite recently shared by teachers and parents on the other (Olgierd Kuty talks of ‘a strategic mother-teacher-priest micro-alliance’), are now distinct. In this context, due to multiple factors which are very well described by Professor Kuty in the present work, ‘the Y and Z generations’ (born between 1980 and today) are in a manner of speaking forcing the School to reinvent itself. In search of a life project and an environment conducive to personal development, they also demand authenticity and immediate gratification, contrary to the old educational models which place the accent on effort and deferred gratification. Often also living in an environment of normative pluralism at home (in a more and more loaded context of a reconstituted family), and ‘in the absence of the former major institutionalised collective life pathways (such as were offered to their parents), the young have to each construct their own life project.’ But, adds Professor Kuty, they nonetheless come up against a school world which is rigid and marked by non-discussion. ‘There are numerous young people who, having grown up and are growing up under the banner of multiple norms, regret the difficulty of having a dialogue within educational institutions which still do not know too well how to adapt to this still new socio-cultural context whilst they continue to grant importance to the experience of the previous generations of teachers, and thus to tradition.’

As will now be clear, it is within this complex framework that mediation intervenes: Mediation-scolaireand it does so in order to, explains Baptiste Dethier, ‘foster the establishment of common norms, and negotiate the process of ‘living together’’ between the school actors who are now ‘in conflict’ due to their normative reference points. It is the pupils and the teachers, certainly, but also the parents who, whilst previously the Family and the School maintained a relationship of cooperation, today greatly challenge the School, ‘taking more and more the side of their children.’ It is thus under the aegis of the school mediator, who embodies ‘a new possibility,’ that social links will be today redefined. ‘It is clear that the School can no longer function as it has done for fifty years,’ concludes Dethier.

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