“Hamster in School” – College between notes and jokes

Credits: La Fabrique editions

hamster at school is intended to become a “crossroads” of national education, a reflection of both the autobiographical and the critical world of the school. Writer and teacher Natalie Kintain questions our college years with writing in the service of comedy, politics; and sometimes too much, anecdotally.

Polyphony waters this autobiographical story in several ways. We hear successively Natalie Quintana, a schoolgirl, a high school student, a student in Khagna, a teacher in Lisbon, a teacher transferred from college to college. It is this variety of experiences that gives the subject as much power as legitimacy. Add to this the voices of friends worried about the future of their children, more or less authoritarian colleagues, or even schoolgirls embarrassed that they can’t wear a tank top in the heat of the moment. Then a puzzled and kaleidoscopic look at the classrooms of our student days is released.

Those who are already familiar with Natalie Quintan’s work will be delighted to rediscover her caustic pen, extracting sadly true moments from the usual school schedule that make us laugh.

In fact, this is truly the strangest thing I’ve experienced in national education in these four years of eating well in the cafeteria. This is the emergence of art history. »

Hamster at school, Natalie Quintan

From class memories to criticism of the institution

Natalie Quintana has the virtue of making us nostalgic at times and showing us behind the scenes. Like a little mouse, we observe the interaction in the teachers’ room, discover the pleasure of correcting dictation, absenteeism of teachers and students, hidden scoliosis due to correction of copies, and also as the language of newsletters.

“Once a colleague had a new word: “perfect”. All of a sudden we all started typing “upgradable”. Perfect, perfect, perfect, it was. »

Hamster at school, Natalie Quintan

Moreover, the author is not limited to these simple vignettes of classrooms. She showers her text with critiques of the institution, deconstructs reactionary clichés about the social and political role of the school, discusses in turn the question of power – in particular the disappearance of the platform – about the implicit commitment of civil servants to the police state, school reforms (which are really only lexical) , we no longer say knowledge but competence “), and the eternal appreciation that remains the mainstay of French education, whether it is quantified, colored or explained by letter.

Political statement, sometimes too anecdotal

If, as the author claims, school class structure , one could argue that the structure of his book is an anecdote. True, the pleasure of reading some passages cannot be denied, but sometimes it is annoying to simply superimpose anecdotes, funny, but often inappropriate. The choppy syntax and eternal enjambings seem to exist only to give literary authority to what sometimes looks like a mere collection of false sociological anecdotes about the school.

Critical reflections lose their power when they are emitted by a writer playing a sociologist instead of sociologists. In other words, although it humorously poses the question of changing the status of a teacher, Natalie Quintan’s book does not provide any solution, it stops at the stage of well-organized impressionist criticism. At the end of the reading, the hamster at school, locked in his cage, i.e. the institution, is still running around without asking questions. Natalie Quintan’s energetic text is a double-edged sword: it makes people laugh with its radicalism as much as it interferes with an objective and detailed analysis of the school.

Hamster at School, Natalie Quintan, Factory Editions. 13 euros.

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