This is distressing, heartbreaking, and terrifying news. Samuel Paty was killed for doing what good teachers do: sharing knowledge, modeling critical thought. By all accounts, Samuel was a beloved teacher who encouraged debate and diversity of ideas.
I understand that Samuel had complaints from a parent of a child who wasn’t even in his class, that there was some kind of social media campaign against him, that it all escalated to the point that he changed his route home from school, fearing that he may be attacked. And then he was attacked, brutally attacked, and beheaded.
Horror, and revulsion. It is overwhelmingly evil. Samuel’s students are 13 years old – this is a trauma that will carry through generations.
We have to learn from this. Schools, colleges and universities have to do more to protect the safety of teachers. Why didn’t Samuel Paty’s school take his concerns seriously? Why did they allow a campaign against him to go unchecked and instead put him under investigation? It is horrifying to see how quickly this escalated from a classroom tension to an act of terrorism. It is terrifying to see how little it takes to go from a normal teaching day to some kind of hell.
We must be able – and society must enable us – to speak, write, teach, counsel and converse without fear of violence. If not, then a leader can’t lead, an artist can’t make art, and a teacher can’t teach.
Don’t be cynical in the face of this tragedy. We have to end this stupid war.
Je suis Samuel. Je suis prof.