Catherine Trautmann : cultural policy and education

by Jean-Claude Richez, coordinator of the observation mission during evaluations at the INJEP (2002-2013)

Catherine Trautmann was Minister of Culture from June 4th, 1997 to March 27th, 2000. Her nomination to the Ministry coincided with the dissolution of the National Assembly by President Jacques Chirac in April 1997 and the ensuing incumbency of the left-wing party.

Catherine Trautmann was a member of the Socialist party, recognized for her work as mayor of Strasbourg. As mayor, her experience with regard to culture was principally local and was constructed on an ambitious agenda:
– to defend the great French cultural institutions
– to contend that culture does not require social validation to exist
– to ensure that local territories participate in French cultural life
During her second mandate as mayor, C. Trautmann turns her interest toward public education and launches an initiative under the Delegation for youth.

As Minister of Culture, C. Trautmann’s mandate is marked by the signature of the Charte d’objectifs culture/éducation populaire by eight Public education federations. In addition, C. Trautmann revitalizes the Conseil national éducation populaire culture, established by Jacques Toubon. Catherine Tasca, Minister of Culture after C. Trautmann, ensures the continuity of the Council, as well as a cooperation agreement between the Ministeries of Youth and Sports, and the Ministry of Culture.

In a similar vein, C. Trautmann also spearheads the Charte du service public pour le spectacle vivant, signed on October 22nd, 1999. C. Trautmann attempts to distance herself from the Malraux heritage, which is fundamentally at odds with education initiatives. As such, C. Trautmann cultural agenda includes a public education mission, as public schools are accessible to all citizens and provide a structured framework for the youth. C. Trautmann intends to introduce amateur and professional practices into the public school setting, as equal access to culture remains at the heart of the French République’s mission. Accessing culture is also a right for all French citizens: art must “transgress material and technical realities, to allow an individual to discover the secret relationship between objects, to see and feel the world differently, to transcend boundaries and penetrate the heart and the spirit, across space and time”.

C. Trautmann’s cultural agenda is based on three pillars: 1) the development of public education ; 2) the defense of amateur practices ; 3) the defense of culture as a civic service. Her agenda is in line with the work of her predecessors, namely Jack Lang, who in 1989 signed a Protocol with the Ministry of youth and sports, ensuring the quality of artistic and cultural training of the youth in schools. Jacques Toubon adopts the role of Minister of Culture after J. Lang, and implements national training sessions for cultural mediation, which ensures the transmission of knowledge between professional and students in artistic institutions. In 1994, the Ministry of Culture adheres to the Fonds Jeunesse et Education Populaire (FONJEP) and invests 10% of its annual budget in bolstering its public education initiatives. The national Council for Culture and Public Education meets for the first time March 14th, 1995 to discuss the resources for public education and cultural mediation. The Council will meet again in 2002 and will thus benefit from only two meetings.

The Départment des etudes et de la prospective (DEP) directed by Augustin Girard and the Délégation au développement et aux formations (DDF) and the Direction de la musique, de l’art lyrique et de la danse (DMALD) are the three administrative bodies of the Ministry of Culture that carry the mission of civic service through public education. The need for mediation, in essence, accompanying students through the artistic experience and encounter with monuments of the French heritage, becomes evident. To fulfill this requirement, the Ministry must work with defendents of public education, however this advocacy group is stagnant in the 1980s. It is only in 1995, that the Ministry of Culture and the movement for public education join forces. That very same year, the Fédération française des Maisons des Jeunes et de la Culture (FFMJC) organizes a task force on public education and the role of the Maisons des Jeunes et de la Culture. As such, when C. Trautmann becomes Minister of Culture, her work on public education remains inscribed in a history of alliance between the Ministry of Culture, youth and public education movements – with varying degrees of success.

C. Trautmann’s ambitious agenda faces numerous obstacles, namely a reduced budget and isolation from the rest of the government. Indeed, Marie-George Buffet, Minister of Youth and Sports, excludes C. Trautmann from discussions on public education and Claude Allègre, Minister of Education, disapproves of C. Trautmann’s incumbency. Furthermore, the public education movement – of which Camaraderie, Les idées en mouvement and Vers l’éducation nouvelle are the main actors – remains in dissonance with C. Trautmann’s initiatives and attempts to act independently from the Ministry of Culture. Indeed, these advocacy groups are seeking the emancipation of civil society, rather than focusing on partnerships with governmental bodies.

In addition, C. Trautmann’s agenda will be attacked by professional artists, namely in the world of theater. These artists reject the civic service mission imposed by the Ministry, which detracts from their artistic initiatives already founded in democratic principles (performing for citizens). They also denounce the Ministry’s support of amateur practices.

Hence, studying C. Trautmann’s incumbency as Minister of Culture is of interest, as it makes evident the difficulties of reconciling Malraux’s Ministry of cultural excellence and Lang’s Ministry dedicated to public education and cultural decentralization. C. Trautmann’s agenda accentuated the gaps between centralized and regionalized cultural initiatives, and reinforced the tensions between amateur and professional practices. Fundamentally. C. Trautmann took recourse to outdated modes of negotiation, while neglecting contemporary needs.