In English Voices From Spain

My friend the teacher Oya

Originally published in Spanish. «Mi amigo el profesor Oya». Francesc de Carreras. El País.

27th April 2018

Francisco Oya is a veteran history teacher in secondary education. He also has belonged for many years to the association Profesores por el Bilingüismo (Teachers for the Bilingualism), which was already defending a bilingual Catalan-Spanish model for the schools in Catalonia in the nineties. I’m an old friend of this historian, since in those same nineties I wrote in El País several columns defending bilingualism in the school and had contact with that association, which is still active and whose president is currently Francisco Oya. Why do I speak today of him? I do because unluckily he’s in the news.

Indeed, the newspapers these last days –and among them, of course, El País- have reported what has happened to him in the Institut (high school) Boscá, a historical learning centre in Barcelona. The subject, personal considerations aside, has a general interest to understand the current situation in Catalonia, the defenselessness of those who legitimately disagree with the nationalist and secessionist paradigm, and of the unpunished arbitrariness on the action of public powers despite the fact that, in theory, the decree that develops the article 155 of the Constitution is still in force.

In the last few weeks Francico Oya has been the target of public protests, insults and banners censuring him as fascist, Francoist, and some other frequent terms that many of us are already used to. The fact is that the teacher, concerned about the education of his students, has handed out complementary material to the manual of Spanish history established by his department of social sciences due to its partiality and lack of rigour. These deficiencies are not surprising since said manual is written by Agustí Alcoberro, vicepresident –and current acting president- of Ómnium Cultural.

In the small excerpts that I have been able to read from this book there are statements that are historically aberrant. To balance out such information, Oya has added, among others, diverse historical texts of authors of the Catalanist tradition, such as Prat de la Riba or Maciá, as well as an interview with Stanley Payne, a renamed North American Hispanist. That was reckless, my friend Oya, a single mindset rules Catalonia, academic freedom does have its limits and you have trespassed them.

A group of students, whose ideology you might figure out, complained to the headmaster, with allegations that are denied by Oya. But the headmaster, apparently very active in social networks as secessionist, has started a disciplinary inquiry and, as a precautionary measure, removed him from teaching. An inspector from the Generalitat, also quite active in social networks, is performing such inquiry. Article 155 is therefore still in force, but with its customary inefficiency.

Oya is an expert on arbitraryness of power due to his ideas. I remember that 20 years ago he phoned me saying that he wanted to see me. I received him at my home and he described me his predicament. He had sat on an examination for the position of high school head of department and had obtained the first position. In these cases it was customary that he got to choose the centre in which he was to work, but instead he was assigned to a school 60 km away from Barcelona, the city where he lived. He was telling me that in case I knew someone in the Department of Education of the Generalitat that could help him.

By chance, the competent general director was an old colleague of mine from PSUC on the seventies. I phoned him, I explained the case, and he found it strange, since that never happened. He promised to fix it and call back again. Several weeks passed without reply. Then I called him again and, assertively, I mentioned that the next week I would write a column in El País reporting the case. In two days the situation was unlocked: the Department called Oya and they offered to let him choose where to work, as it was usual in those cases. Nowadays the law is despised in public, but for many years it was infringed in silence. The troubles come from a long time ago.

Is there indoctrination in the classrooms? Of course there is. Not always, for sure, and it is also hard to prove. But a review of the history manuals could give an estimation of the level of indoctrination. Small anecdotes, such as that of Mr Oya at the end of the nineties, are revealing: it was needed to make things difficult for him so that he went away from Catalonia and left his position open for the talibans that have taken us to the current situation.

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