21/01/2022

Catalan High Court breaks with the post-Franco linguistic consensus in schools

2 min
Massive demonstration in defense of Catalan in Barcelona schools

The judicial sword of Damocles has become effective. Catalonia's High Court has ruled that the Catalan government has to force schools to teach 25% of classes in Spanish, which is a blow to the linguistic immersion that has been applied in Catalonia for almost forty years with a wide social acceptance. This acceptance has allowed thousands of children who did not have Catalan as their habitual language to learn it, without being detrimental to the use of Spanish. The civic and academic success of this system is beyond doubt, as corroborated by the data. Now, however, after years of insistence by a minority of families (specifically, a little more than a hundred since 2005) who have enjoyed the active support of the Spanish media and the right, and who have used the courts to achieve their goals, we are entering an uncertain stage.

The main danger is to introduce the seed of division in schools and in Catalan society for reasons of language, a possibility that has always been avoided. The coexistence of the two official languages has been a very well preserved value, based on the general acceptance that Catalan was the weaker language and the one that, therefore, had to be positively discriminated. The school was one of its few pillars, despite recent studies warning that the lax application of immersion was cornering it in the classroom too. And this is where the second danger appears: the ruling worsens an already bad situation. In practice, if it becomes effective, it can be a serious blow to the historical language of the country, which is now in a situation of clear regression.

The irruption of the so-called "government of the judges", imposing quotas in such a delicate matter, considered essential by a large part of Catalan society, opens, on the other hand, a panorama of political instability that can have repercussions on the governability of Spain – we need only remember the negotiations over the budget – and that of course can also have consequences in the attempt, already quite weak, to put on track the Catalan sovereigntist struggle on the track of dialogue. Touching the language, and more specifically dismantling the great historical consensus on the school system, also means breaking the pacts of the Transition to democracy and violating social cohesion.

The Catalan government now has a very serious problem on the table. The path of disobedience is difficult to follow because it would involve thousands of civil servants and could have an undesirable effect on the education of thousands of children, already disrupted enough by the pandemic. But to accept without further ado an imposition by the courts that does not respond to the reality of majority public opinion is not acceptable either. Therefore, it is to be hoped that the Catalan government, which should already have foreseen this possible judicial outcome, will respond intelligently and firmly to this interference, providing security to teachers and families, and seeking legal modifications (for example, through the Catalan education law), so that school and academic life can continue its course and Catalan, a collective cultural heritage, does not lose its place in schools.

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