Do you really think that a mere 'nuance' could bring 600,000 protestors on to the street? Even if Edouard Balladur had withdrawn the government's proposal before the demonstration, people came in big numbers to reaffirm their stance.
The private schools get their money through school fees and donations. Why subsidise a private company when public schools are in desperate need of teachers, new buildings and funds? You are right in saying that some private schools charge less than pounds 200 a term, but others charge more than pounds 2,000 a year. The public schools were created according to three principles. They had to be free, compulsory and secular, free to people from any background, compulsory to guarantee every child the right to education and secular to prevent any religious discrimination.
The students are allowed to believe in whatever god they choose or none. The only condition is to respect other people's beliefs. A protestor said: 'I believe in God and I believe in, a secular school.' Given the growing influence of extremist movements all over the world, neutrality - as a means to achieve more tolerance - is of prime necessity.
What urged people to demonstrate was not a 200-year tradition, but the will to defend the right to equal opportunites.