Uniform, Catholic and elitist. This is the school system that has been proposed by José Ignacio Wert, the government's ideological battering-ram. Aznar taught the Popular Party an idea that has given it a lot of success: in politics, an ideological struggle is fundamental. His government was surely the most ideological since the days of Franco. Then Aznar went, and Mariano Rajoy took the reins of the party. The differences in their characters are huge. Rajoy likes the role of being laid-back, unhurried, none too well defined. The sum of his policies leaves no doubt as to his intentions. He knows that his mission is to consolidate Aznar's conservative restoration. Aznar led it, so to speak, on horseback; Rajoy is doing it behind the scenes, where he likes to be.
The actual work is in the hands of two ministers with singular traits: the irrepressible narcissism of José Ignacio Wert, and the educated ambition of the conservative Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón. The first is all ego, the second more professional and dexterous; but for many, who were unaware that under his cordial, affable surface there lurked a spirit very far to the right, Gallardón has been a surprise. He has been keeping quiet lately, because head-on confrontation with the judges causes the deterioration of one's image. But he will soon be back in the news.
The Church has bagged the bird it wanted: the Socialists' civic education course
Right now it's Wert's time. One of the oddities of Spanish politics is that it has been impossible to generate a stable body of education legislation. Obviously, education is a strategic area from an ideological viewpoint -- no decision taken on the issue is innocent. The priority in the distribution of spending at different levels of education, for example, is a declaration of principles. Wert's mission is clear. Demolish the legacy of secularization, and the mechanisms of compensation for inequalities, and affirm national linguistic unity, at the cost of the languages of certain regions. With this the minister has moved with more enthusiasm than effect, because his crude methods cause political blockages, and the law is not yet in effect. But the mission has been ordered from above. And Wert will go through with it. The Church has bagged the bird it wanted: the Socialists' civic education course. It is now clear that we have a right wing that does not believe in the democratic and liberal values proper to an open society, and persists in giving the Church the rod of authority over children. Meritocracy becomes the ideological goal of the schoolroom - that is, training children for competition, and not for cooperation. The failure of pupils from poor backgrounds matters little. Of course, the private schools are the great friend to be protected. Lastly, Wert has liquidated the linguistic policies of the regions, breaking a broad consensus of many years' standing.
What will become of Wert? When he has finished his job, he will probably be sent home in the first Cabinet reshuffle. The objectives having been reached, a more likeable person will be given his job. But behind the excesses of Wert is Mariano Rajoy, and the PP. It is an underlying ideological option at the service of an idea of society, and of Spain. With a right that still gives privileges to the Catholic Church, as if the liberal revolution never happened; which sees schools as an instrument of preparation for competition; and which curbs the country's cultural diversity, little agreement can be reached. There is not even any room for collaboration with the rightwing regional nationalisms, which share many of the PP's views on money and values. Quite apart from the minister's personal manners, we have once again trashed the opportunity for a consensus-based education law, which could last for some decades and give stability to the educational system. Wert's counter-reformation is not conceived for the future, and has no other aim than to satisfy the ideological cravings of the Spanish right. It will be born with an expiry date stamped on it: the arrival of another party in power.