If you ask them, most children in France will be able to recite the three words of the national slogan ‘Liberty – Equality – Fraternity’. They will probably also be able to make some sense of the three founding values of the French Republic. But what of their own experience of fraternity, this feeling that gives us a sense of connection to all other human beings and allows us to behave towards them and with them in a spirit of fraternity? 

Fraternity: Living the experience Testimony of a teacher

This is what we can see through the work of Audrey Longprés-Raillot with her pupils. ‘I was first struck by a black and white photo by Olivier Culmann, which showed two people from behind, sitting on a bench, with barbed wire in the foreground. It had been taken on a campsite in Slovakia, but it was open to all sorts of interpretations.’ The secondary school where she teaches had made all its teachers attend the presentation of the operation. ‘I immediately saw that this project met the objectives of helping pupils along the path of citizenship,’ said Audrey Longprés-Raillot, who teaches history and geography, as well as moral and civic education. ‘It also provides a comprehensive framework for validating many of the skills to be acquired: writing skills, teamwork, the expression of feelings and emotions, analysis and interpretation of a work, the use of computers and the Internet...’ Implementing the operation has taken up many hours for the seven classes that she teaches. From the six photos, the pupils first chose and analysed the one that they preferred, explained their choice and carried out online research on the theme that was raised: adoption, the elderly or neighbourhood parties. The challenges that the children met were never those that the teacher expected. While they were brilliant in choosing a catchy title for the image, they struggled to express their emotions and feelings. ‘But the most tricky task was writing the message on the postcard,’ said Audrey Longprés-Raillot. ‘You need to be very subtle in how you express yourself to convey the value of fraternity to someone that you don’t know.’ The young people overcame the challenge of writing a letter to a stranger through these workshops. Most of them had never done it before. ‘They didn’t know the Val-de-Marne at all. They chose towns like Gentilly or L’Haÿ-les-Roses just because they liked the name,’ said the teacher. In searching for the ideal recipient for their postcard, chance was not so much by chance. ‘They realised that they were making their choice according to a name and a surname: a man or a woman, young or old. They tried to identify those they thought might be mothers, who might take the time to reply, or people whose name suggested they might share the same origins as them.’ The operation was a real success among the pupils. All of them, even those who usually struggled, proved very receptive. ‘There was no reprimand since there was no right or wrong answer. Their opinions were always valued, as soon as they could explain them.’ The teacher plans to continue using this tool, which is ‘so rich and positive, within a communitarian society, that is in the grip of rejection and prejudice.’