Catalonia is fortunate to be able to follow several left-wing analysts who with courage and intelligence have dismantled the traps of the unilateralist independence movement. We read their articles with interest, listen to their radio interventions and follow them on Twitter. However, there is a surprising issue in all their analyses: the rough majority considers linguistic immersion a taboo which cannot be questioned. Either you are in favor of immersion or you become suspicious of being an Aznar follower. No reasoned criticism. We have just witnessed this position of intellectuals and left-wing journalists in the reactions to the recent ruling of the TC, mostly referring to organizational aspects of the teaching staff of the Generalitat included in the Education Law of Catalonia (2009). Nothing says the sentence on the linguistic regime of use of Catalan as the only vehicular language. On this subject in particular, the jurisprudence is already broad and consolidated. All of it, since 1984, goes in the same direction: Catalan must be the center of gravity of the educational system, but this does not exclude some vehicular subjects from being eventually taught in Spanish. The recent sentence says nothing about the mandatory use of both languages in the education system because this was not what the appeal to be addressed was about.
However, there has been a reaction to this ruling that goes beyond logic. A large part of the intellectuals and academics who most show their leftist leanings have hurried to comment on the sentence and make it say what it does not say. This reaction is a symptom. It clearly indicates the desire of this progressive elite to close the issue and rise victorious to the podium exclaiming: do you see how the immersion is faultless? Do you see how the TC settles the question fully endorsing it? Do you see how wrong C’s and PP are? In short, the leftist media is in a hurry to put an end to the issue by way of a sentence which does not endorse anything. After all, few people read the ruling in full. It is very curious that people capable of analyzing and critically criticizing the actions of the independence leaders in their crazy career, when it comes to the languages of Catalonia, abandon their ability to glimpse behind the scenes. How can they believe that the language issue is left out of independence maneuvering in favor of their interests (which are not necessarily those of society as a whole)? Just in the same way the separatist leaders practically do and undo what they please in all areas of society, why should we believe that, in language policy, their national construction interests are diluted and all their actions are focused on the good of the citizen, coexistence and the linguistic rights of all? If Laura Borràs has recently stated that the immersion and TV3 cannot be touched on, this will be for some good reason.
What a large part of the intellectual and journalistic left regarding immersion is asking from us in fact is making an act of identity faith. If there is no room to talk about bilingualism, if there cannot be a constructive debate, if pluralism of opinions about the school system is not accepted, if one or two subjects in Spanish equals an attack on Catalan and the school system, then we speak of something that is not of this world. We are talking about a totem and not a school practice that will have its pros and cons, like everything. A practice we could suspect with foundation that, since it is a red line of the independence movement, as before it was of nationalism, will imply some kind of inconvenience for non-nationalists. But if all this cannot be said, we conclude then that immersion has become an identity issue, as much as Caga Tió or the mountains of Montserrat can be. And here lies the reason why we cannot constructively debate about immersion. So we no longer speak of an educational praxis and its adaptation or not to the XXI century, but of something that has become part of the being of Catalanness. Quite possibly without being fully aware of it, the Catalan intellectual left has contributed to making immersion an authentic identity totem which, as such, is untouchable.
Joaquim Coll is a historian and columnist. Mercè Vilarrubias is a linguist and writer.