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Where Learning is Against the Law

Por: | 24 de octubre de 2011


“What did you do today at school?”


“Come on! You always say that. Now tell me, what did you do today?”

“I am serious! We did nothing…well…at least for one hour.”

And while Jr. can be a bit of a hormone-driven pain in the neck these days, at least this time, he is telling the truth…and for that matter, so is every student in the entire Spanish public school system. Or to be more exact, those who choose not to take as truth tales where freak storms and perfumed mists are caused by petrified foreskins found in quaint Italian villages.

Because for two hours every week, those kids who are somewhat sceptical about tales of a man finding gravity a nuisance in Jerusalem and shooting into the air on a flying horse or others moonwalking on the sea of Galilee, sit in class and do…nothing.

Welcome to the clase de nada, an educational black hole where learning is forbidden by law, one that was passed by the PSOE in 2006. Since then, for two hours a week, those who aren’t so sure of the infallibility of an elderly German living in the centre of Rome are taken from their classrooms and thrown into limbo, and we’re not talking about Hawaiian shirts balancing under a pole, nor the one where unbaptized children float above bubbling lakes of burning sulphur.

In this limbo, their teachers are meant to monitor but in no way are to reinforce core subjects and thus exercise the verb form of their calling. For this would give the limboers an unfair advantage over those who do choose to remain in the classroom to learn about legal land deeds given to a ‘chosen’ people several millennia ago.

As there is no defined curriculum for this particular dance class, each school becomes a sort of free zone where it’s up to the Director of Studies to choose what to do over the hundred or so hours that the students will lose over the academic year. Classes can range from homework time and extensive reading to chess and most frequently, Jr’s aforementioned nothing.

In schools where there are few abstainers, the unchosen infidels are left to color at the back of the Gallery-24-hours-in-pictu-0015 classroom while the teacher presents as truth a book that finds stoning an adequate response to things like adultery. Perhaps worse yet, the little ones are sometimes bundled in with special needs classes (when they themselves need no extra support) and often mistakenly feel that they are being punished for the simple fact of not believing that women were created from Adam’s rib.

This situation might be conceivable in a modern democracy if the demand for religion were overwhelming throughout the ages of obligatory education. However statistics show that, while the majority of parents of very young learners choose religion classes for their children, the numbers sharply drop off after that special age here in Spain when kids receive Playstations, mobile phones and trips to Disneyland in return for taking the first communion. In fact, once they reach secondary education, less than half choose to sit through sermons about the evils of pork products and masturbation.

A closer look at the misleadingly named Religion class shows that it also discriminates among believers. To date, only the Catholic Church, Evangelical Christians, Muslims and Jews have been given the right to assign teachers to impart their beliefs in the public school system, leaving the children of Buddhists, Hindus, Scientologists and followers of Odin and Baal in the same situation as non-believers, back in the clase de la na’.

But even though these few faiths have been given the right on paper, according to the United Islamic Community (UCIDE), 90% of Islamic students do not have access to classes on Islam. Other religious communities have even less representation. The socialists’ weak attempt to obviate the Catholic Church’s privileged position falls completely flat when you leave the bigger cities in the country.

This burning bush situation can only be explained by referring back to the infamous concordat that was signed with the Vatican just months after the current constitution became law. A treaty that has since saddled its Iron Age commandments on this relatively young democracy. A legal agreement in which the Spanish government agrees to offer religious education in its public school system and to allow the Catholic Church to appoint its own teachers. Educators who don’t have to go through the ordeal of public examinations that other teachers do yet are paid by the tax payer. Jesusanddinosaur

Richard Dawkins has said it on many occasions, there is no such thing as Muslim, Catholic, Hindu, Zoroastrian or Jewish children. Just as there is no such thing as Fascist, IU or PP kids. These are ideas that their parents are free to hold in an open and just society, but ones that have absolutely no place in public schools. A place where learning and instilling curiosity should be paramount, where classes teaching children to be happy with nonanswers are relegated to history books and where invincible concordats and fairy tales of Adam and Eve riding on dinosaurs are saved for Sundays.



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Authors (Bloggers)

Chris Finnigan is a freelance journalist based in Barcelona. He writes for Barcelona Metropolitan and is a book reviewer and reader for The Barcelona Review. He is a graduate of the London School of Economics. You can find him on twitter @chrisjfinnigan

Ben Cardew is a freelance journalist, translator and teacher, now resident in Barcelona after growing up gracefully in Scotland via Norwich. He writes for The Guardian, the NME and The Quietus, among others, on everything from music to digital media. You can find him on Twitter @bencardew

Fiona Flores Watson is a freelance journalist, guide and translator who has lived in Seville since 2003, and has been a writer and editor for more than 20 years. She writes for the Guardian, Telegraph and Sunday Times Travel Magazine. Originally from Essex, Fiona is also Consulting Editor of and has her own blog, Scribbler in Seville. She has been contributing to Trans-Iberian since 2014 and tweets at @Seville_Writer

Jeff Brodsky is a freelance writer. He arrived in Barcelona in 2013 via an admittedly indirect route, living in Chicago, Arizona, Seville, Amsterdam, North Carolina and Madrid. Despite not having stepped foot in Seville for over five years, he still speaks Spanish with an Andalusian accent. Jeff’s writing has been published in newspapers and magazines in America and Europe.

Koren Helbig is an Australian freelance journalist and blogger enjoying a life of near-eternal sunshine in Alicante. She writes for publications in Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom, focusing on stories exploring smart and positive approaches to social issues. She hangs out on Twitter at @KorenHelbig and keeps a selection of her favourite stories at

Julie Pybus lives in a small off-grid house on a hillside in Catalunya. She usually focuses on helping charities and social enterprises with their publications and websites, but has also written for The Guardian, Country Living and The Observer. Julie launched and runs a hyperlocal website which endeavors to increase understanding between the different nationalities in her area @JuliePybus

Paul Louis Archer is a freelance photographer, multimedia storyteller and artist educator. A cross-disciplinary worker, who endeavors to encompass the mediums of photography, audio design and writing. Born in Hertfordshire of an English father and Spanish mother. Based in the United Kingdom. @PaulLouisArcher

Vicki McLeod is a freelance writer and photographer. She has lived in Mallorca since 2004. Vicki writes about her beloved island for The Majorca Daily Bulletin, the only daily English language paper in Spain; produces regular columns for the Euro Weekly News, and articles for Vicki runs PR strategies for several businesses in Mallorca and London as well as working on her own blogs and projects. She and her husband, Oliver Neilson, supply photo and text content for private clients via @phoenixmediamlr. She tweets at @mcleod_vicki.

Born in Newcastle upon Tyne and based in Barcelona, Alx Phillips writes about contemporary art, dance and theatre in a way that human beings can understand. For more previews, reviews, interviews and extras, check:

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