Outrage in France After Museum Worker at Musée d’Orsay Tells Students to ‘Shut Their Mouths’

Did bias play a role?

The Musée d'Orsay in Paris. Courtesy John Phillipo via Flickr.
The Musée d'Orsay in Paris. Courtesy John Phillipo via Flickr.

A teacher at a French secondary school took to Facebook to express dismay at what she saw as unfair treatment of a group of her students who visited Paris’s Musée d’Orsay earlier this month.

The group of 93 pupils from the Lycée Maurice Utrillo Stains in Seine-Saint-Denis, a few miles northeast of Paris, were reportedly told by a museum staffer to “shut their mouths.”

Teacher Marianne Acqua said her diverse range of students come from a disadvantaged school in an “education priority zone,” noting “we see other school groups making a noise…and observe that nobody is reprimanding [these students] who are mainly white, middle-class and Parisian,” reports the Art Newspaper.

Acqua further wrote the warden called in another colleague who agreed that the students’ behavior was “highly problematic.”

The French minister of culture, Audrey Azoulay, has been drawn into the controversy and has requested that a report be compiled about the incident in question. artnet News reached out to the museum and Azoulay’s office for comment but had not received a response as of publication time.

A museum spokeswoman told the Art Newspaper that “the museum wishes to organize a meeting with the teachers and this class in January, in a calm atmosphere, to hear the students’ feelings and open a constructive dialogue.”

Students and teachers gathered in front of the Utrillo school last week to express their outrage, reports Le Parisien. The students carried signs reading “Culture is for everybody, let’s respect our rights, we all deserve them,” and “I belong in high school, I belong in the museum.”

Geography teacher Fabienne Giulani told Le Parisien: “When our students go to Paris, they are considered as savages as soon as they open their mouth.”


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