Now that you have started your lessons, are you going to say this to your teacher?

« Professeurs, vous êtes vieux…. Votre culture aussi »

This was one of the many slogans created and used by students during the unrest in May 1968. And they were right, schools and universities in the sixties had never changed their ways of teaching, it was just like at the beginning of the 20th century.

This is what Annie Ernaux writes in her book, Les années, published in 2008:

« Publique, privée, l’école se ressemblait, lieu de transmission d’un savoir immuable dans le silence, l’ordre et le respect des hiérarchies, la soumission absolue…. »

(Whether public or private, schools were the same, it was where an unchangeable knowledge was transmitted, respecting silence, order and hierarchy, in complete submission… )

The 1968 unrest started in Nanterre where a new university had just been built, next to the slums where many Algerians lived.

The buildings were new but nothing else was, the students felt very isolated, had little freedom and say so they decided to talk!

But then, the movement grew and nearly every night there were demonstrations and clashes between the students and the police in Paris, in the Latin Quarter (le Quartier Latin).

Barricades were built every night with cars parked in the streets…..Some of them where used for the barricades.

The next mornings the streets were quite a sight and car owners had difficulty finding their cars…

But students and police got hurt.

The whole of Paris ground to a halt as workers went on strike for several weeks, the bins were not collected for ages.

There were no public transport and very little petrol to be found in Paris. So you had to hitch hike if you wanted to go from A to B and although the weather was glorious that May, it did rain, some auto-stoppeurs/ses had to wait for a car to appear for ages under the rain!

When it did not rain, not everyone was demonstrating………. And the outdoor swimming pools were packed.

Towards the end of May, there was a big demonstration in support of de Gaulle on les Champs Elysées which triggered the end of the movement.

You can see photos about all these events taken by Gilles Caron, war and political photographer, at the following link:


Enjoy your lessons with us in a post 1968 era!!

It is still time to join us for French lessons in Bath and Bristol.