In English Voices From Spain

Nation-Building in the School

Originally published in Spanish: “Hacer nación en la escuela”. Mariano Fernández Enguita. El País.

It is vox populi, but it is not even mentioned. If to the shameless manipulation by secessionism you add the faculty’s hypersensitivity, the reaction will be explosive, but this is how it is. The Catalan school system has been exploited. The entire patriotic faculty, normal schools, literacy crusades, and so on, have served the nation-building project. What is new —due to the disloyalty of some and the blindness of others— is that a territorial educational subsystem, in a democratic state-nation, has been put into the service of the alternative secessionist project of a stateless nation.

For years, we have seen Catalan flags with no Spanish flags, and increasingly, pro-independence flags, in schools. On the October 1st we saw the schools being occupied by the educational community for the Catalan process, against law and justice. Then, we saw the mobilizations against the central government action, and the harassment to public servants’ children, incited by teachers. A stream of reports of ideological manipulation continues, and will continue. How we got to this point? Anyone who is not afraid of words will admit that the secessionist conspiracy is worthy of a whole chapter in Malaparte’s classic, Technique du coup d’etat. But these things are never improvised, they need a string of minor preparatory coups. Particularly, at the school.

The mother tongue, that for most is the Castilian, is not a common language anymore, and in communications has been reduced to an assistential role. Not entirely? Of course not, only as most as possible, and tomorrow, more. The alibi: the Catalan, disadvantaged on the streets, needs compensation, and immersion enhances social cohesion. The fact is that the Castilian-speaker finds himself/herself in disadvantage, as would do any group separated from its mother tongue; and the message launched is that Castilian is so alien as it is English (except the latter is spoken by the rich and the former is spoken by the poor).

Programs, texts and teachers also are conveyors. We have been for years with maps of the “Catalan Countries”, Ferrán I de Catalunya-Aragó, the Secession War, the Civil War against Catalonia, and so on, in text-books and walls (Francoism was not any less grotesque). Incidental or epidemic? The problem is the heavy veil, with the purpose of hiding in some cases and not knowing in others. More than sufficient signs for carrying out an inspection or attracting the investigators’ attention, but the former is still awaiting orders and it is an uncomfortable unprofitable question for the latter. After the October 1st, we have witnessed different outbursts from teachers or irresponsible biased nonsenses as InfoK, but the worst thing is the legitimisation that wraps secession in successive layers of self-determination, referendum, ballot boxes, freedom of speech, non violence… The values get more basic and blurred at each round; a preposterous quid pro quo, although powerfully fed by internet; in any case, a controversial interpretation and, conveyed through the institution, with an alleged objectivity, a manipulation.

Is nationalism congenital to faculty? Countless regimes and government pursued it, but Spanish nationalism was blown up by Francoism, that chastised us for decades, while the peripheral nationalism remained spotless, absolved from their dark past and sanctified. Election polls and union elections show that the faculty is more nationalist than the common people, or at least in greater proportion. Maybe all the devotees to some cause are more prone to teaching, which guarantees a captive and very willing audience; or maybe it is all in a day’s work, since the autonomic communities have relieved teachers from geographical mobility and the immersion has given to the Catalan faculty, applicants included, competitive advantage without detriment to chances in the rest of autonomic communities (their incoming mobility is less than 1% compared to the average 7%).

And there are the families. The FaPaC (Federation of Associations of Mothers and Fathers of Students of Catalonia) staged along with the educational community the symbolic handing of the keys to schools to Puigdemont and provided infantry to open them (and for the pictures). For more than half of families, Castilian is their usual language, three quarters prefer bilingualism, even the Generalitat has a bilingual web… But for the FaPaC, it is only the Catalan, always in favour of the Catalan process. Due to both the internal immigration (the young people) and the exterior one (Hispanic American), Castilian is more frequent among the families with children in school age, and this is the first institution they come into contact with; all the more reason for bilingualism. But if the children have been subjected with a promise of integration, and parents have been in a like-it-or-lump-it situation, that shows how the public sphere has been occupied and monopolized by nationalism.

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