Secular civics in Spain

honda civicsA reader of ours, UndergroundPewster, wrote us a note asking for our thoughts on this International Herald Tribune article on a new secular civics course being introduced in Spain.

In this “Letter from Spain,” reporter Victoria Burnett tells us how a new course taught to students in about a third of Spain’s regions in September is drawing the ire of the Catholic Church. While the course seems rather benign from the initial description of lessons on why reckless driving is bad, Burnett relies on a Catholic to tell us what the fuss is all really about much later in the story

And it’s all about sex:

Alfonso Aguilo, a Catholic headmaster and head of the Madrid Association of Private Education Companies, said that 2,500 parents of the 40,000 students the association represents do not want their children to take the course. In an interview by telephone, he said he was worried about textbooks that put heterosexuality on an equal footing with homosexuality, bisexuality or transsexuality.

“There are a lot of people who don’t want their children to think there are five types of sexuality, five types of family,” he said.

Near the end of the article we’re told that part of the controversy involves the Catholic Church seeing the new course “as a challenge to its influence in the education system,” where it holds a lot of weight. Also, a fourth of all Spanish students are in Catholic schools, which receive 50 percent of their funding from the government.

Overall the article lacked a broader context that would have been helpful to see the clash between the secularists in Spain and the traditionalists in the church. The clash here makes the culture wars in America look tame, considering that both sides are represented by entrenched centralized organizations.

There is also the question of the broader European story. Spain is very different from its neighbors in a number of ways, but what do other countries’ educational systems have in terms of civics courses and the church? A couple of compelling places to look would be Italy and France.

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  • Wonders for Oyarsa

    Ouch! That picture pun is bad. Shame on you!

  • Jerry

    Catholic schools, which receive 50 percent of their funding from the government

    The article does not mention the effect of having so much government support but I suspect that taking government money is a proverbial double-edged sword. Maybe that will be addressed in a later article.

  • Dan

    The context that is missing is the historical context. The Church in Spain has long been in bitter conflict with socialist-secular forces. That conflict was very much part of the Spanish Civil War, and it continues today — albeit with post-WWII secularism largely replacing Marxist ideas. Might this conflict and its bitterness account for the fact that Spain is one of the few countries in the world to have legalized “gay marriage”? And might it also be behind the effort to push secular non-Catholic teachings in the schools?

  • Stephen A.

    Of course civics should be secular. Athiests drive them, too! Funny visual pun. Though drivers’ education as part of the curriculum cannot come fast enough to that nation (that’s the stereotype, anyway.)

    Seriously now. While the article can’t be all-inclusive in the broad sweep of history, I wonder if this is just the latest volley in a seventy-year struggle. The fact that the Socialist government is going up against the Catholic Church is a hint as to the players here and to the conflict’s historical background.

    I feel this looks and sounds a lot like the continuing struggle from the virulently anti-Catholic Republicans (Socialists) and Franco’s crowd, with whom many Catholics allied themselves out of necessity, and sometimes enthusiastically, due to brutal persecution by the Republicans.

    Even if I’m stretching things a bit here, clearly, echoes of that struggle continue under the terms “Socialist” and “conservatives” instead of Republicans and Fascists.

    Perhaps an in-depth analysis of the struggle to keep Catholic Traditionalism alive in modern, Socialist Spain would be warranted. Has anyone seen such a thing online or in print? It would be interesting reading to see if anyone’s keeping score here. This article was a good, but veiled, first step in that regard.

  • Discernment

    Aguiló argues that individual morality is being supplanted by secular dogma. He and other critics say the course smacks of classes in “formation of the national spirit” that were obligatory school fodder under the dictatorship of Francisco Franco.

    “The government cannot say, ‘There is no religion, the only religion is my religion: secularism,’ ” he said.

    The problem is, no one will bother with spot-on objections like this until what they warn about smack them in the face.