December 20, 2021
The Minister of Education, Josep González Cambray visits the Turó del Drac school in Canet de Mar (Barcelona). EFE / Alejandro García
For some years now, the success story of linguistic immersion has gone awry, especially since languages have been used by some as mechanisms for the construction of closed and exclusive identities
Pablo Casado, in his attempt to get rid of the clamp to which Vox and Ayuso have subjected him, has decided that anything goes. He thinks that he can use lies, with impunity, and that it is legitimate to sow hatred among fellow citizens, with the invaluable help of the Brunete media division. He believes, and we should not underestimate this possibility, that if it served Trump and it serves Orbán and other politicians, it can also be useful to him to win the elections.
Simultaneously and synchronously, significant sectors of the Catalan independence movement are dedicated to offering him easy targets and shooting with the same projectile, that of hatred. In this case, with the invaluable collaboration of its Ithaca media division, headed by TV3. This privileged platform is used by supremacists and xenophobes who get their money for making us believe that they are comedians, as well as characters like that retired high school teacher who, interviewed, refers to a part of Catalan society as “colonists”. Something that should not deserve our attention if it were not for the fact that these statements are not an isolated event, they are made on public television and with the conniving silence of the presenter.
Fortunately, this is not the daily reality neither in Spain nor in Catalonia. But we should not underestimate the impact that these behaviors have on a part of the citizenry, who live in media bubbles that offer them what they need to consolidate their previous beliefs, fears and insecurities.
The encounter between the brutal competition for the media audience and the citizenry’s search for security -real or fictitious-, even if it is channeling frustrations and fears against a close enemy, produces a perfect storm and is a lethal combination for coexistence .
The Canet de Mar conflict has made more evident a problem that has been entrenched for years. Without underestimating its importance, due to the central role that language plays in education and in society, this is not the most important problem that affects our educational system. In recent years we have witnessed a loss of its capacity for social inclusion and reduction of social inequalities. But to the extent that it is inserted into a broader conflict, in which emotions play an important role, its social impact is greater.
The linguistic immersion model is a collective success story for Catalan society, but the social changes experienced in recent decades make it advisable to update it. Migratory flows lead to schools in which 20 or more languages of origin coexist; globalization generates, via social networks, a negative impact on the use of minority languages. All of this accompanied by difficulties in understanding diverse societies and the obsession of some with social uniformity.
I will not tire of remembering that this model of school is the result of the struggle of the popular sectors that during the Transition struggled to maintain a single educational network, against those who, from nationalism, defended a double network, differentiated by the vehicular language, Catalan or Spanish.
It was popular Catalanism, the neighborhood associations, CCOO and the left-wing parties, PSUC and PSC, the population of metropolitan cities, arriving from other lands of Spain, who fought and managed to have a single educational network. Experience shows that entire generations have normally accessed bilingualism, thanks to school, in social settings where Spanish was the only language of social use.
Most of the people who have been educated in this model claim it and recognize that it has been a key factor in personal enrichment and social cohesion.
Although those of us who defend this model should not forget that its objective was twofold, the normalization of the use of Catalan and the bilingualism of the students. The Law of Linguistic Normalization of 1983 in its article 14.2 stated: “Children have the right to receive their first education in their usual language, be it Catalan or Spanish. The Administration must guarantee this right and provide the necessary means to do so. Parents and guardians can exercise it on behalf of their children by urging that it be applied. “
For some years now, that success story has been twisted, especially since languages have been used by some – too many – as mechanisms for the construction of closed and exclusive identities. And they have been used as weapons for party battles.
The reality in Catalan schools is much more sensible and complex than the one reflected in the scuffles of these weeks. The journalist Víctor Saura explains it in a dispassionate analysis published in Catalunya Plural. He reminds us that the report of the Consell Superior d’Avaluació finds that 46.8% of teachers always or almost always address their students in Catalan, 24.3% do so often, while the rest use Spanish. This reality is not far from that discretionary distribution of 75/25 of judicial decisions. These data confirm that there is much more common sense among the teachers than among some political leaders and the media.
Does this mean that the concern that exists in Catalan society for the language is an unjustified scaremongering? Unfortunately not. Sectors of Spanish society have made an effort to use the language as a factor of homogenization of society. The words of Minister Wert still resonate with me -for having listened to them live- when in Congress he declared without complexes that his objective and that of his Education Law was “to Spanishize Catalan children.”
An approach, that of using language to homogenize society, which is also supported in a clonic way by sectors of the independence movement, when they argue that Catalan should be the only language of social use in public spaces, restricting Spanish to the private sphere. Both do not assume that we live in multilingual societies.
In this context, the need to address an aggiornamento of the system becomes even more evident. Setting the objective of guaranteeing full competence in Catalan and Spanish for all students, Councilor Bargalló tried it, with little success, in October 2018, with a document with a very explicit title: “A model of multilingual and intercultural education.” The crossfire received aborted that essential debate.
Today, the renewal and updating of a broad educational pact is more necessary and urgent. But the deafening noise caused by those who use their languages from their trenches and sow hatred for their party battles makes that pact very difficult.
The worst that could happen to us is that, at the end of this story, those who defended a double school network based on the vehicular language end up prevailing.
With the associated impact that the losers of that decision would now be – as then – the popular sectors. While many of those who, to port and starboard, stir up the conflict will continue to bet on private or concerted schools in which different languages are used as vehicles.
Those of us who defend a broad and transversal agreement must collaborate by being very belligerent against those who sow hatred. An equidistant belligerence that is the opposite of neutrality. It is as distant from the hatred that those who defend positions with which we disagree sow as it is from the hatred that those who may be closer to ours sow. Although this belligerent equidistance guarantees us the criticism and misunderstandings of one and the other.
We should avoid a public debate focused on looking for and pointing out the most base and degrading expressions of those who do not think alike, to attack them as if they represent the whole.
A public debate focused on the ravings of the hooligans of each position is not a debate, it is a fierce battle. Perhaps, when leaving home each morning, we should deactivate the detector of other people’s miseries and activate the one of our own miseries.
As with all important things “aquest mal no vol soroll” (this problem does not want noise). And for now the noise generated by those who have decided to sow hatred is deafening and prevents any dialogue. There is no choice but to resist in the defense of transversal pacts, until they stop sowing hatred.