Division in the Catalan Government over the defence of its school model is a very bad sign

2 min
The Cerro del Dragón school in Canet

For years education professionals have been demanding, almost begging, that the use of Catalan in schools stop being politicised, that teachers be given space to work and that their professionalism be trusted. Despite the persistent and stubborn malevolent propaganda of rampant Unionism, and despite the distortion of a justice system that is increasingly alien to the Catalan reality, schools have managed to preserve coexistence. They have worked to protect boys and girls from partisan bickering and to ensure that, beyond the media's noise, they will acquire the minimum skills in Catalan and Spanish within the framework of the linguistic immersion system. The language war that some have tried so hard and are still trying so hard to detonate has fortunately stayed clear of school, where immersion has been formally maintained. However, in practice, in tow with social change, it has been applied with evident flexibility, so that the use of Catalan has not only regressed in playgrounds but also in classrooms. In part – only in part – the school has ceased to be a linguistically compensatory redoubt, a role it had played in the 1980s and 1990s with the aim of giving Spanish-speakers the opportunity to become fully bilingual citizens, if they wanted to.

This process, not at all easy, has been skilfully implemented by teachers and families, in the context of continuous educational reforms and economic hardship, and in the midst of the offensive of a Spanish nationalist right wing that has the support of the courts. It is in this context that we must read the new episode in Canet. Once again, an attempt is being made to poison linguistic coexistence based on anecdotal events that do not represent the reality of the country or of schools. The legitimate defence of Catalan as a vehicular language and of the immersion system –always guaranteeing Spanish is learnt– should continue to be, no matter how much the courts now question it, a socially cohesive pillar that brings together all those who, wherever they come from and whatever they think, feel part of this plural society and, with generosity and honesty, recognise that Catalan is in a situation of inferiority and, therefore, deserves special protection. It is to be hoped that this will also continue to be the PSC's position. And it is also to be hoped that Catalan nationalism, which has always been characterised by its willingness to incorporate all sensibilities and all cultural backgrounds, will act united, firmly but with seduction as its banner, always avoiding confrontation between languages. That is why it is so strange that, in convulsive moments like these, when those in favour of tensing coexistence seek the maximum provocation, the response of a part of the independence movement should be to play the blame game. Does Catalan deserve this new division? Do schools? We are already accustomed to the constant persecution from Unionism. It is hard to understand, however, that immersion should also be the object of a partisan struggle between coalition partners who consider the defence of the Catalan school model as one of their bulwarks. It is a terrible sign.