By Andrew Ede

Of rebellion and dictators

I MAGINE you were back in 1974 Spain and you were miffed with the government. What options were open to you to express this miffedness? There weren’t any. Being miffed was best dealt with by keeping mum. The Generalísimo may have been on his last legs, but fascism still had legs; it didn’t do the listening attentively to popular concerns, touchy-feely democracy stuff.
The well-being of democracy in Spain and the Balearics has been the target for a liberal amount of navel-gazing over the past few weeks. The liberally minded have been less than impressed. In the Balearics they have been echoing, albeit in more measured terms, charges of dictatorial and fascistic behaviour. Laughable though such charges are, José Ramón Bauzá has been the target of them. But being called a fascist has sort of stuck; higher courts in the Balearics are ensuring that it will. A final ruling in favour of union leader Lorenzo Bravo, who called Bauzá a fascist, is likely to be made following the application last week by the Supreme Court to confirm a previous court decision in his favour.
But this is not 1974. Those anxieties over the rude health of democracy notwithstanding, in 1974 a bunch of stroppy parents in Minorca couldn’t have got away with lodging a complaint with a Palma court against Bauzá, Education Minister Joana Camps and the secretary for education, Guillem Estarellas, which claims abuse of public office and violation of civil rights. This is 2014, and the complaint has been lodged.  
The origins of the complaint are, you won’t be surprised to learn, the introduction of trilingual teaching. Whatever misgivings there might be about TIL, taking it to a court and to a possible conclusion that would result in disqualification from public office and fines seem a bit extreme. Or is it? Is it not in fact a manifestation of precisely the concern about the exercise of democracy? That it isn’t well practised and that the only resort is the courtroom. Seeking legal redress happens too often for a society which supposedly adheres to democratic principles.
Bauzá might have been better advised to have laughed off Bravo’s insult. By himself, dragging a matter through the courts, he has highlighted the insult. Honour impugned and all that, but he should have treated Bravo with contempt and moved on rather than taking up arms. But Bauzá has not chosen his battles wisely. It is why the Partido Popular is currently giving a good impression of imploding or disappearing down a vast ravine that has appeared in its ranks. TIL was just one of them; a battle worth undertaking perhaps, but one that was tactically flawed. Taking on the armies of the teachers and the Catalan indignants was one thing; rousing his own side into opposition was quite another. The charge of dictatorial behaviour levelled against him is a nonsense. Without the unquestioning fealty of a rank and file, there can be no dictator.
The divisions that were already evident have become ever more apparent over the past week. The spin doctors sought to assure the party faithful (and anyone else) that Bauzá and Palma’s mayor Mateo Isern, were the best of mates after all. Isern confirmed that there were differences between the two of them, but attributed these to their different styles of doing things and to differing personalities, rather than to differences on policy. He wasn’t convincing.
Isern was something of the star attraction at a lunch in Muro, one that led to the possible organisation of a convention to seek drastic changes in the direction and management of the Bauzá administration. Rebellion. PP mayors are mightily concerned about the elections next year, and their rebelliousness was given greater substance by criticisms of Bauzá by the former president, Gabriel Cañellas. At the lunch the word was that Bauzá could only really rely on his right-hand man, the vice-president Antoni Gómez. And so there was another lunch, this time in Inca, one to which Gómez was sent to head off the rebels. He almost certainly hasn’t. What happens now? Will the mayors try to remove Bauzá? Who knows, but one thing’s for sure, this would not have been happening to a dictator.

Problems mounting in education

GAFFE-PRONE regional headmistress Joana Camps has yet to offer her words of wisdom on the latest report by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development’s PISA survey (the Programme for International Student Assessment). Last time that she did, she made her finest howler of all - translating PISA from Spanish into the Catalan word “trepitja” (tread on) and uttering it on more than one occasion during a parliamentary session - so maybe she has thought it better to say nothing this time.
The report didn’t include a specific measure of school student problem-solving skills for the Balearics, but the overall score for Spain was well below average. Indeed, problem-solving skills are poorer than overall Spanish mathematics performance, and maths performance in the Balearics is one of the worst among the seventeen regions.
The findings were picked up on last week and used as criticism of the national reform of education, the so-called Wert Law after the minister, José Ignacio Wert, a law to which Sra. Camps, as a fellow PP traveller, is an adherent. The criticism centred specifically on the way in which the reformed law may undo attempts to improve school kids’ critical-thinking and problem-solving abilities by re-emphasising the use of rote learning. This method has long been considered a weakness of public education in Spain; it isn’t motivational and it doesn’t equip kids with the appropriate skill sets for contemporary society and work.
But there was also something of a backlash in Spanish pedagogical circles last week, some scepticism being expressed as to the value of the PISA reports. Essentially, this had to do with concerns that they sought to impose a particular model of education that might not be appropriate in all circumstances. But scepticism or not, the general view of educationalists was that the reformed law would only make matters worse.
For Spain, and the Balearics is a case in point, there is a desire to move to an economy that is more technologically based. The concern is that the education system will not enable this. Angel Gurría, the secretary-general of the OECD, said at the recent Global Forum Spain in Bilbao, which considered key challenges facing Spain, that the country “ought to leave behind the brick economy and focus on the knowledge economy”.
Less emphasis on construction and greater emphasis on the construction and solving of problems through technology. Sound words, but are any of the education politicians listening?

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