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Barcelona, ​​the school that could be and was not

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Blue and white striped robes, crucifixes, boys here and girls there, worn elbows, physical punishment, lists of Gothic kings … These are the remnants of the education that most Spaniards received during the almost 40 years of Francoism. The Barcelona City Council inaugurated last Friday in the Born cultural center the exhibition For an education in freedom. Barcelona and the school 1908-1979 (until March 2022) where with an enveloping scenography the visitor walks through the evolution of school education in the Catalan capital. It is a walk through the city’s efforts to benefit from the most ambitious and modern educational projects with the aim of creating free citizens, but which ran into the dark years of Franco’s National Catholicism.

When crossing the entrance, the exhibition makes the visitor land in a narrow street in the Raval neighborhood at the end of the 19th century; It is a Barcelona saturated with inhabitants and without the necessary infrastructures or resources to establish an educational system with the minimum quality. Schooling was reserved for the elites, or it was limited to private homes.

In 1908, a majority in the Barcelona City Council of republican and Catalan forces managed to approve the Extraordinary Budget for Culture. The curator of the exhibition, Antoni Nicolau, warns that this budget forgotten by many “is the beginning of a revolutionary education.”

The visitor sneaks directly into the plenary hall of the 1908 Consistory and sees how the approval of this plan totally transforms the educational system. The reform emphasizes a free public education in Catalan, with boys and girls sharing classrooms and, above all, secular. “The exhibition that we have designed marks three points. The first is why when the Republicans arrived at the City Council they made this educational project so ambitious. The second point is what the plan contained and, finally, why it was a benchmark ”, defends Nicolau.

After approval, the plan failed traumatically after social tensions led to the Tragic Week in July 1909 and the subsequent repression and execution of Francesc Ferrer i Guàrdia, the great benchmark for new pedagogical ideas and the Modern School. .

In 1913, the creation of the Commonwealth of Catalonia put into operation some educational reform initiatives. Even so, they had little to do with the project devised in 1908, since the education of the Commonwealth is conservative and Catholic. Despite this, it is then when two pedagogical renewal programs are introduced, such as the Bosc de Rosa Sensat School and the Pere Vergés School of the Sea.

The great educational transformation came with the Second Republic in 1931. It was then that an attempt was made to recover the ideals of the 1908 Budget. The Barcelona City Council launched a plan to build school buildings to house more than 20,000 students. Still, everything is truncated after the military uprising. During the Civil War, the anarchist and communist leaders took the reins of an education that should be at the service of the revolution. The principles of the Budgets of Culture were incorporated into the new pedagogy.

The exhibition shows drawings of children who paint the bombings and the diaries of the then adolescent Pilar Duaygües: “They came back at two o’clock, when we were going to set the table. First we heard sirens, we went out to the gallery, I heard the planes and at the moment in front of us foams from the fire of the incendiary bombs, the cobblestones, the roof of the houses, everything was going through the air (…) we believed that it was the end of the world ”.

The last of the scenarios recreates a Francoist classroom inside a cage. An image that shows an education in the hands of the Falange and the clergy, focused on indoctrinating the students in the ideals of the regime and in Catholicism. An education that began by repressing teachers and eradicating all renewing experiences. The result was the involution in the educational level of the society.

It took until the mid-sixties of the 20th century for movements of pedagogical renewal to emerge again and to try to recover the principles of the Extraordinary Budget of Culture of 1908.

“We have not made an exhibition with posters and text hanging. We have achieved a totally immersive exhibition ”, the curator is proud.

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