‘We aren’t on holiday, we want education reform’: The ‘May 1968’ of high schoolers

High Schoolers’ Activism
By Elsa Neuville


The best-known secondary student movements in May and June 1968 are those that took place in Paris. This paper focuses on these movements from the perspective of high school students in Lyon, encompassing the broadest possible scope of schooling (long-cycle or short-cycle vocational training, general secondary schools, and single-sex or coed schools). The archives enable us to present a panorama of these students’ participation in movements, in terms of the timeline, the number of schools affected and the kinds of events. Then, we focus on the daily events over these two months. This close-up perspective lets us assess what ‘mobilisation’ or ‘activism’ meant for students who were under strict social supervision. Lastly, by looking at the post-May world through their eyes, we can see why certain students felt that they had won a victory, even though this two-month period is often seen as having had a minor impact on secondary education.
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