Monday, September 23, 2013

A Very Political Educational Strike

Has the Balearic Government no interest in negotiating with the teachers? An editorial on Sunday* compared the lack of negotiation with the intense negotiations which occurred at times when damaging strikes, such as the 2001 transport strike, threatened to be prolonged and to so harm tourism. The lack of negotiation now, the editorial continued, indicated that it wasn't only negotiating that the government wasn't interested in, it was education itself.

The government has said that it will negotiate but that there has been no offer from the unions. What are the unions expected to negotiate, though? Are they expected to debate points of law? When a senior lawyer such as Pedro Horrach, the anti-corruption prosecutor for the Balearics, can condemn the government's expeditious "legalising the illegal" after the high court had declared the procedure for TIL illegal (which should have meant the suspension of its introduction), then there are grounds and grave concerns for believing that this is a government which does not act in good faith.

There has been an offer to mediate. It has come from the rector of the university. The government said thanks but no thanks. Mediation wasn't necessary. If not, then what is? The rector's offer was knocked back, one suspects, because the government would have been placed in the awkward position of involving someone who might actually understand something about education in negotiations. Who can it put up? Joana Maria Camps, an estate agent?

But to admit someone from education into the discussions would mean admitting that the strike is an educational one and not, as the government insists and the national education minister Wert has also said, a political one. A university rector wouldn't understand the politics, one has to conclude.

The strike is both educational and political. It isn't wrong for the government or indeed anyone to make the political point, but it is political because the government made it political. All government legislation is political insofar as it is the political process which determines legislation, but the introduction of TIL in April was not an educational issue and an educational issue alone. Indeed, I would go so far as to suggest that it was a political issue and a political issue alone. Try as he might to make everyone believe otherwise, TIL was not voted for at the last election because it wasn't in the Partido Popular's manifesto. TIL was a political expedient to compensate for the failure of the government's free selection policy. Much to its annoyance, parents did not opt in any great number for their children to be taught in Castellano, as the government had hoped. And once parents had given free selection the thumb's down, despite possibly having voted for it (as it was a manifesto pledge), TIL became the alternative - the political alternative, one which would impose a certain percentage of teaching in Castellano. So much, therefore, for the free selection of language. So much, therefore, for the good faith.

Both sides, unions and government, are engaged in a political battle. Both sides use TIL (the English part of it) to disguise their real agendas. Many teachers will consider themselves to be striking over nothing more than a strictly educational matter to do with the implementation of the three-language instruction, but many will be striking because of the threat that TIL will end up diminishing Catalan. Both sides, I would argue, have wanted this strike. Not the teachers themselves so much as their unions. The government's anti-Catalan stance was always likely to end in industrial action and pretty serious industrial action at that. It hadn't happened until TIL tipped the balance.

Why would the government want the strike? The answer is simple, and lies with its description of the strike as political. It has needed a battleground to make its point, the anti-Catalanist one that pre-dated the election and which has been a constant since the PP won the election. Bauzá's reference the other day to not speaking the Catalan of Catalonia but the Catalan of parents and grandparents (i.e. Mallorquín or the dialects of the other Balearic islands) would have gone down well with many Mallorcans who reject Catalonia and Barcelona and who proudly state that they speak Mallorquín and not Catalan.

But in so doing, Bauzá has emphasised the political nature of government policy. Why, if it is not political, bring Mallorquín (or Catalan) into the argument? Educationally, TIL is about a third language for teaching purposes. Educationally, this is its unique proposition. Bauzá, though, has revealed that it is more than this. He has wanted a battle and by God he's got one. 


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