French President Nicholas Sarkozy has urged all French teachers to participate in a renaissance of the French education system, which he believes should include the instruction of religion.
"I am convinced that we should not leave the issue of religion at the school door," Sarkozy wrote in a letter to educators, which was made public Sept. 4.
The French president underlined that he was not advocating for proselytizing or teaching within a theological framework. However, he clearly stated his belief that religion and spirituality are significant to the human person.
"The spiritual and the sacred always accompany human experiences. They are the source of all civilization,” he said. “One can open up easily to others and one can dialogue more easily with people of other religions when one understands their religion.”
The president urged teachers to go beyond teaching content and assist young people in character development. Their responsibility, he said, is to "guide and to protect the spirit and the sensibilities that are not yet completely formed, that have not yet attained maturity, which are searching, which are still fragile and vulnerable."
Sarkozy said the educational reform must include "rewarding the good, punishing the faults, cultivating an admiration of that which is good, just, beautiful, great, true and profound and [cultivating] a detestation of that which is bad, unjust, ugly, insignificant, untrue, superficial and mediocre. That is how a teacher renders his service to a child in his care."
He also called on educators to help cultivate in young people an appreciation for culture and to instill the virtue of patriotism so that children will grow to be responsible citizens.
The president concluded by echoing the Catholic teaching that parents are the primary educators of their children. He urged parents to be actively involved in their children’s education and promised to make quality education more accessible.