Submitted version to War and Society.
Final version published in 2014.
Tamar Groves and Cecilia Milito Barone, Imagining a Democratic Future, Forgetting a Worrisome Past:
Educational Policy, School Textbooks, and Teachers under the Franco Regime war & society, Vol. 33 No.
1, February 2014, 43–58.
The term “democratic education” acquires diverse meanings in different political, social and
economic contexts. In her influential book, Amy Gutmann maintains that the aim of State-
financed education in a democratic country is to prepare children for free and equal citizenship.
Her argument was articulated in the 1980s and referred to countries with established democratic
institutions. In this paper we explore two projects relating to the democratization of education
which emerged in an authoritarian context. In the late 1960s, both the Franco regime and the
illegal opposition were discussing the future of Spain. The dictator’s advanced age meant it was
crucial to begin thinking about the years to come. The regime aspired to consolidate its power and
guarantee its survival after the inevitable demise of the dictator. The opposition wanted to see the
end of the authoritarian era and the beginning of the age of freedom and liberty. Their motivations
and intentions clearly clashed when it came to envisioning the political future of the country.
However, in the field of education, as ironic as it might seem, both used the concept of
“democratization” as key for the future.
In this article, we analyze the origins of the Franco regime’s endorsement of democracy for
its education system. We begin by exploring the educational vision of the regime in its earlier
days, focusing mainly on its expressions in legislation and textbooks. We follow its gradual
evolution until the regime’s declaration of its open adherence to the democratization of
education in the 1970 reform. We then explore how this democratizing tendency was criticized
by illegal initiatives of teachers, who offered their alternative project. We highlight how both
used the term “democracy” to refer to distinct, contradictory, and sometimes overlapping
meanings. This range of meanings serves to illustrate the complexity of the concept of
democratic education in Spain in the early stages of its transition to democracy.
1. From Civil War to Organic Democracy: Education and the Legitimization of
the Franco Regime
The 36 years of the Franco regime cannot be considered as a single block. A common division
is of the early Franco period and the late Franco period. The early period stretched from the
victory in the civil war in 1939 to the late 1950s; the second started in the beginning of the 1960s
and lasted until the dictator’s death in 1975. As one of the last relics of European fascism, Spain
suffered international isolation in the 1940s. It adopted an economic strategy of self-sufficiency
which led to economic stagnancy and hardship. In the 1950s, however, Spain’s international
position improved, and the opening of its economy to foreign markets led to its recovery. The
main force behind Spain’s economic miracle was a group of technocrats associated with the
Opus Dei. They aspired to combine traditional Catholicism with modern and efficient economic
Amy Gutmann, Democratic Education (Princeton University Press 1999).
concepts. Their members rose to high-ranking ministerial positions and strove for economic
prosperity that would lessen the pressures emanating from the rigid political system. As a result
of their policies, in the 1960s, Spain went through an accelerated process of economic and social
transformation. It left behind its rural traditional past and become an industrialized urban
country. The extensive migration from the rural areas to the urban centers, the rapid industrial
growth and the emergence of a consumer society were all related to the expansion of the middle
Thus, Spain was radically transformed under the Franco dictatorship. Faced with this
changing social and economic reality, the regime had to adjust the arguments it used to justify
its existence and legitimize its actions. According to Paloma Aguilar Fernández’s important book
on the memory of the civil war during the transition to democracy, the regime appealed to
legitimacy from two main sources: origin-based legitimacy and performance-based legitimacy.
She maintains that both sources of legitimacy were used alternately, depending on the
particular challenges faced by the regime at different stages.
The Franco dictatorship came into being as the result of a military coup. In July 1936, part of
the army rose against the democratic Spanish republic. As a result, the regime had to legitimize
the rebellion and vindicate the victors, as fighting the good fight. Thus, the victory in the civil
war – the origin of the regime – was continually evoked, delegitimizing the republic and its
democratic institutions. However, this was not enough, and the regime supplemented this
strategy by turning to arguments about its efficiency in running the country, in contrast to the
chaos that characterized the republican period. As the country’s economic situation improved,
this legitimacy of performance was also associated with the peace and quality of life enjoyed by
Spanish society. However, the old origin-based legitimacy source was also kept alive,
maintaining the division between the “bad” republic and the “good” Franco regime.
The education system was enlisted to help promulgate the regime’s legitimizing arguments.
It was the task of schools to guarantee that young generations of Spaniards would live in
harmony with the different political projects it adopted throughout the years. In its earlier days,
utmost importance was given to education as part of the regime’s project to enforce political
socialization and social integration. The educational work of the republic was violently
eradicated, resulting in the destruction of libraries, the outlawing of books and the ideological
control of educators. In order to ensure teachers’ loyalty to the new regime, the education
system was subject to one of the widest-reaching campaigns of purging undertaken by the
The teachers who survived the ideological cleanse were made to take part in
rehabilitation courses and were instructed to use all subjects as a platform from which to spread
the idea of the greatness of the Spanish homeland. According to the first education laws, the
main objectives of education were to inculcate: patriotism, the Catholic religion, the unity of the
Spanish state and the greatness of its leader.
The following paragraphs from the Primary
Paloma Aguilar Fernández, Memoria y olvido de la Guerra Civil española (Madrid: Alianza Editorial,
1996), p. 68.
On the relationship between the regime’s sources of legitimization and its educational policies see: Juan
Manuel Fernández Soria, Educación, socialización y legitimación política (España 1931-1970)
(Valencia: Editorial Tirant lo Blanch, 1998)
On this topic see for example: Francisco Morente Valero, La escuela y el estado nuevo. La depuración
del Magisterio nacional 1936-1943 (Valladolid: Ámbito Ediciones, 1997).
Ley de 20 de septiembre de 1938 de Reforma de la Segunda Enseñanza; Ley de Universidades de 1943;
Ley de 17 de julio de 1945 de Educación Primaria. They are included in Puelles Benítez’ analysis of the
period, Manuel de Puelles Benítez, Educación e Ideología en la España Contemporánea, (Madrid, Editorial
Tecnos, 2010), pp. 294-305.
Education law of 1945 demonstrate the offensive, intolerant and passionate ideological
discourse of the Franco regime:
The Republican period from 1931 brought a radical overhaul to the values of the
education system. The legislation during this time focused primarily on rooting
out the Christian sentiment in education, and the schooling system suffered a
period of materialistic and anti-nationalistic influences which turned it into a field
of experimentation for the most heavy-handed politicking, negating the true
being of our historical consciousness. The image of Christ was banned in
classrooms, as the sectarian propaganda prepared our adolescents to join the vile
endeavor of the Marxist revolution.
For these reasons, the Movimiento Nacional, from the very moment of its
foundation, has devoted its most determined efforts to entirely restoring –
throughout the whole of our teaching system, and most particularly in Primary
Education – the Catholic training of the young. Alongside this thought, and closely
connected to it, it has been determined that the School’s mission should be to
unite the consciousness of Spaniards in service to the Country, and other decrees
have been promulgated, reinforcing the spiritual prestige of the Teaching
profession, and on a personal level for the teachers, clear improvements have
been made in terms of the conditions of the exercise of their profession.
In addition, this excerpt reveals the important role played by the Catholic Church in the new
regime’s cultural projects. The active participation of the Church in the civil war on the side of
the rebels provided the Franco regime with a certain amount of moral legitimacy. Once the war
was over, the Church demanded in return that it be restored to the primal position it had
enjoyed before the establishment of the Second Republic in 1931. The education system
returned to being subordinated to Catholic dogma. In addition, the ecclesiastical hierarchy
enjoyed the right to inspect all education centers.
However, after the first stage of ideological oppression, the Franco regime gradually became
indifferent to the fate of the education system. Due to its elitist nature, the regime invested very
little money in primary education and generally speaking it left most of the initiative in the hands
of the Church. Only higher levels of education serving the social and political elite of the country
continued to preoccupy the educational authorities. Thus, the education system contributed to
the maintenance of a stratified society. At various times, the regime initiated educational
reforms but, in general, these were only half-hearted attempts to change the educational
Only at the end of the dictatorship, as we shall see later on, did education once
more come to occupy an important place.
At these early years the Catholic content of education was combined with totalitarian
aspirations coming from the Falange. This was a fascist organization which supported the
military coup and was to become part of the Franco regime. Together, these two ideological
currents were forged into what became known as nacional-catolicismo (National-Catholicism)
‘Ley de 17 de JULIO de 1945 sobre Educación Primaria’, in Legislación de Aprendizaje a lo largo de la
vida en España, p. 386, <http://legislacion.educa-alv.es/archivos/b2/b2.358.pdf> [accessed 11 November
On the Catholic Church in Spain see Stanley Payne, Spanish Catholicism, An Historical Overview,
(Madison: University of Wisconsin Press 1984).
Agustín Escolano Benito, ‘Los comienzos de la modernización pedagógica en el franquismo (1951-1964’,
Revista Española de Pedagogía, 192 (1992), 289-310.
constituting the regime’s ideological essence disseminated by the education system.
combined Catholic practice with adoration of the nation and its undisputed leader. School
textbooks played an important role in translating this essence into clear and simple language.
Their message was expressed in an even more fanatical and vehement tone than the one
characterizing legal documents. With respect to the civil war, the textbooks clearly provide the
official version of the victors. According to this version, there were two opposing Spains: on the
one hand there was the republic led by socialists, masons and atheists that provoked utter chaos
in Spain; on the other hand stood the national uprising led by good Catholic Spaniards that
brought peace and order.
In Spain, there were already a great many socialists and a great many Freemasons
and precious little God-fearing.
The socialists were inciting the poor to rise up against the rich.
The Freemasons wanted a revolution.
And because there was no God-fearing, there was very little charity, and the
Commandments were not fulfilled.
For this reason, the Republic came about. And with the birth of the Republic,
peace died a death: churches and convents were burnt, and once again, Spaniards
found themselves fighting against one another.
111. The National Uprising was a movement on the part of the army and of good
Spanish people to overthrow the Republic. It began with the armed coup by the
military units in Africa, and was seconded by all the patriots who, with cries of
¡Arriba España! ¡Viva España! [Long live Spain!], ¡Viva Cristo Rey! [Long live Christ
the King!], enlisted in the Falange, the Requeté and other patriotic militias.
The negative presentation of the republic was accompanied by a hateful tone towards
democracy in general. The republic (in the case of Spain there were two republican periods) and
the political parties and constitutions associated with it were portrayed as inevitably leading to
anarchy and disorder. On the other hand, dictatorships (the existing one as well as the 1920s
regime led by Primo de Rivera) were presented as the providers of order, peace and justice:
All of Spain, tired of so many, such sterile political struggles, gave a hopeful
welcome to General Primo de Rivera who, in his first manifesto, addressed to the
nation, swore to put an end to the killings, the attacks, the political intrigue, the
communist propaganda and social indiscipline. […] During this period […] Spain
enjoyed enviable peace.
Because the right-wingers, terrified to show their faces, did not come to the polls
in the elections [called during the Second Republic], the leftist forces triumphed,
Gregorio Cámara Villar, Nacional-Catolicismo y Escuela. La Socialización Política del Franquismo
(1936-1951) (Madrid: Hesperia, 1984).
Agustín Serrano de Haro, Yo soy español: el libro del primer grado de historia, 17th ed. (Madrid: Escuela
Española, Hijos de Ezequiel Solana, 1957), pp. 83-84.
Edelvives, Cartilla moderna de historia de España, (Zaragoza: Luis Vives, 1954), p. 28. The italics
appear in the textbook.
who drafted a Constitution which flew in the face of the Catholic Church and ran
counter to the customs of Spain.
As the first period of economic autarky had come to an end and gradual internationalization
had started, the official presentation of the war became more complex.
From the late 1950s
onwards, the old exaggerated and fanatical discourse was progressively replaced with a calmer
one. Although this new vision was less combative, it still maintained its instructive nature with
regard to value of the dictatorship. At the end of the 1960s and at the beginning of the 1970s, it
still placed a great deal of emphasis on the disorder that had made the uprising a necessity.
However, it used more neutral and seemingly objective language:
The Second Republic was characterized by anarchy, revolts and anti-religious
sectarianism. The Guerra de Liberación [“War of Liberation”, a poetic appellation
for the Spanish Civil War] put an end to this state of affairs. Since then, Francisco
Franco has been at the head of the Spanish government.
In 1931, the Second Republic was established, which was unable to control the
disorder and revolutions.
In 1936, the Army and all Spaniards rose up against the government of the Frente
Popular, which had gained power.
The liberalization of the economy and the social modernization that followed were
associated with a new kind of political discourse, led by the new generation of technocrats. At
this stage the official discourse gradually become devoid of explicit ideological references.
focused on questions of economy and efficiency. It was basically an administrative language,
accompanied by a certain democratic rhetoric. The main objective of the Franco regime at this
stage was no longer to distance itself from western democracies, but on the contrary, to appear
as similar to them as possible. It was part of Spain’s effort to become a respected member in its
European geopolitical context.
The State Organic Law (La Ley Orgánica del Estado), approved by referendum in 1966
promulgated in 1967, completed the institutionalization of the regime in that direction. The law
attempted to provide a complete definition of the new essence of politics under the Franco
regime: Organic Democracy. Contrary to universal suffrage, a party system and the
governmental accountability which characterize western democracies, the regime claimed that
institutions such as unions, municipalities, professional organizations and the family were the
natural means of representation. They were supposed to be avenues by which to influence the
government, but in reality they were completely controlled by it. Spaniards’ participation in
politics was limited to referenda on special issues. The regime’s propaganda dubbed the law of
Enciclopedia Grado Medio. Para los cursos tercero y cuarto del período elemental, 1st ed. (Madrid:
Escuela Española, 1962), p. 483.
Aguilar Fernández, pp. 63-64.
A. Álvarez et al., Geografía de España e Historia Universal. Octavo Curso. (Valladolid: Miñón, 1968), p.
181. The bold words appear in the textbook.
This sentence does not clarify that the Frente Popular “gained power” in legitimate democratic elections.
A. Álvarez et al., Nuestro mundo. Tratamiento globalizado de los tópicos del Área de Experiencia. Libro
de consulta: quinto nivel. (Valladolid: Miñón, 1972), p. 251. The bold appears in the textbook.
Aguilar Fernández, p. 71.
Luis Palacios Bañuelos, España, del liberalismo a la democracia (1808-2004). (Madrid: Diles, 2004), p.
1966 an ‘Open Constitution’, though in reality it was little more than a letter that ‘Franco gave
generously to the Spanish people’.
The discussion of the law in textbooks from that period is
angled according to the needs of the regime, and distorts the view of the operation of real
2.8 National Referendum Law. This Law establishes the right and obligation of all
Spaniards, men and women, over twenty-one years of age, to vote to approve or
reject, in a form of direct democracy, certain laws drawn up by the legislative
organizations. The Referendum is obligatory in order to modify or repeal the
fundamental laws. For this reason, a National Referendum was held in December
1966 to approve or reject the new Ley Orgánica del Estado.
The Franco regime had come a long way since its open straightforward emotional and
fanatical attack on democracy. However, it must be stressed that in political terms, a democratic
system was just as illegitimate as before. The new democratic political arrangements were
described as a direct democracy – connecting the Spanish people with their leader through the
participation in referendums on specific issues; however, democratic institutions and rights
were still prohibited.
2. The 1970 reform: the Franco regime’s “democratic” response to economic
and social challenges
The adoption of the invented model of Organic Democracy aimed at convincing
Western democracies that Spain could be a member of their club. It was also designed to
quiet internal demands for more rights. However, this discursive effort had very few
practical implications in terms of the way Franco’s appointed cabinet actually functioned.
Nor did it have an impact on the limited basic rights enjoyed by Spaniards at the time.
The regime was ready to assume more liberalizing policies only in specific sectors, with
the aim of enhancing Spain’s legitimacy in international forums. An important example
of these kinds of reforms is the press and communication law of 1966 which, alongside
other measures, did away with previous censorship.
As a result, a series of Spanish
newspapers that were critical of the regime emerged, and local publishers released texts
that did not follow the official line of the regime. The Franco regime was trying to adapt
itself to the social and economic changes brought about by its earlier reforms. However,
at the same time, there was a clear attempt to maintain the old centers of power. In the
field of education, the economic boom and the emergence of the middle class presented
the regime with an especially acute challenge. As previously mentioned, investment in
education was very low for many years. Consequently, at the end of the 1960s, the
education system could not serve the needs of Spanish economy for qualified workers or
the growing demands of the middle classes for better educational services.
After his predecessor was removed from his position due to student protest, a new Minister
of Education, José Luis Villar Palasí, was appointed in April 1968. He belonged to the technocratic
nucleus associated with the Opus Dei. He had reports published by international bodies in which
the Spanish education system was criticized for its inadequacy in regard to the modernization
Antonio Fernández García et al. Área social. Historia Contemporánea. Orbe. 8º. Curso de E.G.B. 2nd
re-edition (Barcelona: Vicens Vives, 1975), pp. 252-253.
‘Ley 14/1966, de 18 de marzo, de Prensa e Imprenta’, in Noticias Jurídicas
<http://noticias.juridicas.com/base_datos/Admin/l14-1966.html> [Accessed 23 November 2012].
project adopted by the state. The criticism in these reports was mainly nurtured by two schools
of thought. The first was the functional perception that views education as a tool for social
mobilization. The second was that of the Human Capital paradigm, which emphasizes the
contribution of education to economic growth. At the same time these theories introduced
economic rationalization as the basis of both organizational and curricular planning. Both
schools of thought reflected central values in capitalist countries and were offered as a
prescription for developing countries. Thus, they were central to projects of modernization for
“backward” countries in the 1950s. They were also associated with the struggle to advance
democracy in the context of the Cold War, and expressed the official perception of
parliamentary democracy whereby primary education should be universal.
The old notion of
the elitist education system was replaced by one designed to cover the needs of the masses.
These theories contributed to the extension of the education systems – a process perceived as
the democratization of education.
These educational discourses had their roots in the European reconstruction after the
Second World War. The establishment of international bodies such as the World Bank and the
International Monetary Fund was accompanied by the division between developed countries
and developing countries consolidated in the 1950s. During those years, the theories of
economic growth and of human capital established a strong connection between education,
development and democracy. Plans drafted in international organizations such as UNESCO and
the OCDE advanced the idea that the modernization of the education systems would guarantee
a country’s economic and political development. For the purpose of promoting these programs,
a complex network of experts and advisers was created.
The new Spanish Minster of Education recruited a group of specialists with experience in
international bodies to draft the new reform. Hence, in the Spanish case, technocrats who
worked for international bodies were directly involved in the country’s new educational
It is not surprising, therefore, that the reform was heavily influenced by the discourses
of development characteristic of international forums.
These discourses, which were
presented as politically neutral and were based on objective indicators, fitted in with the Franco
regime’s technocratic leanings in the late 1960s. It allowed it to initiate ambitious plans for the
modernization of the education system, without changing the authoritarian nature of the
Spanish state. In this context, democratization was no more than a technical word implying a set
of policies such as providing education to the masses, modernizing the curriculum, bestowing
autonomy on schools and presenting teachers as specialists.
However, the regime presented the reform as a step towards a democratic change:
The legal framework which has hitherto governed our educational system was
based on the Ley Moyano, drafted a hundred years ago. The educational goals
were conceived of very differently at that time, and manifested a classist view
One of the reports was the result of a collaboration between the Spanish Ministry of Education and
UNESCO: La educación y el desarrollo económico. Planteamiento integral de la educación. Objetivos
para 1970, (Madrid: 1962). The other report was drafted by the OCDE and the World Bank: Las
necesidades de educación y el desarrollo económico-social de España, (Madrid: Ministerio de Educación
For example Díez Hochleitner, Tena Artigas and Blat Gimeno.Gabriela Ossenbach & Alberto Martínez
Boom, ‘Itineraries of the discourses on development and education in Spain and Latin America (circa 1950-
1970)’, Paedagogica Historica, 47 (5) (2011), 679-700 (p. 682).
which is diametrically opposed to the now-widespread aspiration to democratize
These references to democracy that appeared in the law were always tinged by a
declaration referring to the essence of the regime. When it referred to liberty, it clarified that it
should be exercised within the framework of Catholic values and the principles of the regime.
1. The integral human education, the harmonious development of one’s
personality and preparation for the responsible exercise of freedom, inspired by
the Christian concept of life and by the national tradition and culture; integration
and social promotion and the promulgation of the spirit of conviviality; all of this
in conformity with what is established in the Principles of the National Movement
and other Fundamental Laws of the Kingdom.
When it spoke of equality of opportunity, it talked about personal differences and
overlooked those emanating from socioeconomic stratification.
Among the objectives of this law, the following are of particular importance: To
have the entirety of the Spanish populace share in education, basing its direction
on the most genuine and traditional national virtues; to supplement general
education with professional training which will lay the foundations for the
individual’s fruitful incorporation into the world of work; to offer equal
educational opportunities to all with no limitations other than their own capacity
From a critical point of view, the regime used the reform to convince Spanish society that
the reason for the social inequalities causing restlessness was the shortcomings of the education
system in general and of primary education in particular. The conclusion from this postulation
was that it was possible to create a more just society by changing the education system, but
without touching either the political system or the social structure. In addition, as the reform
managed to appear as disconnected from the needs of the regime, it spread the idea that
educational achievement was more important than any other social factor in determining the
individual’s destiny. It was an efficient tool to maintain social and political order.
The heavy usage of the same technical language as the international bodies helped the
regime to achieve this apparent political neutrality and economic efficiency:
3. The Ministry of Education would adopt the necessary measures in order to
achieve the standardization, rationalization, and mechanization of the
administrative running of its departments and organizations.
Although legislation continued to refer to the essence of the regime, it was ultimately a
drastic change from the emotional religious nationalistic discourse that had characterized
educational legislation up until then. These changes were also reflected in the textbooks.
Ley 14/1970, de 4 de agosto, General de Educación y Financiación de la Reforma Educativa.
<http://www.boe.es/buscar/doc.php?id=BOE-A-1970-852> [Accessed 20 November 2012].
Ibid. The italics were introduced by the authors.
Ibid. The italics were introduced by the authors.
Félix Ortega, ‘Las ideologías de la reforma educativa de 1970’, Revista de Educación, Número
extraordinario (1992), 31-46.
Ley 14/1970, de 4 de agosto, General de Educación y Financiación de la Reforma Educativa.
<http://www.boe.es/buscar/doc.php?id=BOE-A-1970-852> [Accessed 20 November 2012].
Using an objective and neutral tone, the textbooks began referring to democracy and liberty,
although in a very specific manner. They spoke mainly about cultural and social themes, but
never mentioned them in relation to the political system.
3.2 However, Spanish society is tending gradually toward democratization. By this
we mean that there is the tendency toward the slow disappearance of the major
social and cultural inequalities.
There is no greatness without freedom. Men need freedom to fulfill their purpose
in the order of Creation.
Similarly to what we saw in the discourse of the 1970 Education Law, these references to
democracy and liberty were accompanied by the main values of the dictatorship: obedience and
WE consider the individual as the fundamental unit, because this is the feeling of
Spain, which has always considered the person as the bearer of eternal value.
People must be free; but there can be no freedom other than within an order.
LESSON 2. OBEDIENCE
Obedience must have the attendance of all citizens, and the orders which are
given must be followed. Obedience to authority is a civic duty.
According to the regime’s efforts to blur the boundaries between itself and Western
democracies, the textbooks referred to the political system as follows:
In order to achieve these objectives, authority and power have to be regulated by law.
In other countries these basic norms are included in the constitution. In Spain we have
instead the Basic Laws (Leyes Fundamentales) that contain the principal rights and
obligations of the Spanish people and the foundations for the organization of the state.
Although the text speaks of the differences between Spain and other countries, it transmits
the idea that these are only technical differences, and that both models share the same basic
assumptions. It was part of the effort to introduce “democratic” features on the one hand and
to maintain the old order on the other. This effort was manifested clearly in textbooks and in
However, when it came to more technical matters the legislation went even further in
applying international recommendations that had pluralistic implications. Pedagogical
orientation for primary education included in the 1970 reform tried to adapt the curriculum to
the needs of the modern world and advance active pedagogical methods focused on the
students’ needs. There was an effort to reduce the usage of end-of-year written exams and
employ continuous assessment by the teacher. In addition, the educational centers received
relative freedom with respect to the curriculum with the aim of enhancing the relationship
Antonio Fernández García, p. 264.
Gutiérrez, M., España para ti [sic], 1st ed. (Madrid: Doncel, 1965), p. 64.
Ibid, p. 91.
Enciclopedia cíclico-pedagógica. Grado preparatorio de los cursos graduados de primera enseñanza.
(Gerona – Madrid: Dalmáu Carles, 1964), pp. 218-219.
Emérita Ramos; Fernando Manero, Sociedad 5 E.G.B. (Valladolid: Miñon, 1977), pp. 156-157.
between the school and the social context. There were even references to their right to
“establish particular systems of government and administration.”
Teachers were provided with a high level of liberty using classroom techniques, even
emphasizing the need to be open to all possible sources of inspiration. The law openly declared
its aspiration to avoid the authoritarian imposition of norms on teachers.
This does not mean that the spirit of the Law is the establishment of a body of
pedagogical dogmas recognized by all, nor the authoritarian imposition of a certain type
of criteria. Far from it, this Law is inspired by the conviction that all those who participate
in the educational tasks must be subordinate to the success of the educative task, and
that those who have the responsibility for those tasks need to have motivation, open to
trying, to reform and collaboration, no matter where it comes from.
This invitation to experiment is in stark contrast to the ideological control of teachers which
characterized the regime in its earlier stages. The 1970 reform and its democratic and pluralist
values show how, in the case of Spain in the late Franco period, democratic education became
a tool for national and international legitimization. Yet this strategy was not accepted by all
members of the regime. In fact, while the Spanish parliament passed the law, it rejected the
economic reform that was intended to finance it. Thus, the educational policies of the Ministry
of Education were too liberal for the more conservative elements in government. They opposed
the reform’s egalitarian tone, which they interpreted as a threat to the stability of the regime.
The implementation of the educational reform was thus greatly damaged. However, it still had
important implications for Spanish society. The regime assumed the state’s responsibility to
provide all its citizens with education in equal conditions. It also introduced a higher degree of
freedom with regard to schools and classroom work. The Catholic Church – the regime’s greatest
source of support – continued to enjoy all its rights in the field of education (to establish and run
schools and to provide moral and religious education across the entire education system).
Nevertheless, according to the prescriptions of international bodies, the regime was coming very
close to offering democratic education.
3. Alternative voices
At the same time as the regime was employing the term “democratization” in relation to
education, growing groups of teachers who identified with the opposition were attempting to
redefine the term “democratic education” according to their own view. The mobilization of
teachers was closely connected to other social movements in the late Franco era. It can be said
that in their struggle they applied the democratic discourse and practices that emerged in the
circles of the social opposition to the regime in the field of education. A series of documents
published in 1976 shortly after the death of the dictator provided teachers with the clearest
political declaration of their movements. When the documents were published, the successors
of the Franco regime were at the height of their effort to continue with a political scheme to
consolidate Francoism after Franco. They were declaring political reforms that did not make any
substantial change to the political rigidity of the regime.
Ley 14/1970, de 4 de agosto, General de Educación y Financiación de la Reforma Educativa.
<http://www.boe.es/buscar/doc.php?id=BOE-A-1970-852> [Accessed 20 November 2012].
The documents published by the growing collectives of teachers were known as the
The first document, which sparked the cycle of Alternativas, declared that:
The problems of education and of teachers affect the whole of society, and are
related to the general state of the country. A general restructuring of education
is only possible in the context of a democratic society, in which there is a
complete change in the relations between culture and work in all aspects of
This quotation clearly shows the differences between the democratic vision held by the
opposition and the one held by the Franco regime. The movements spoke not only of the
democratization of education but of the whole of society. Their discourse also included
references to a Marxist view on work and culture. They attacked the regime’s pretense of
democratizing education without assuming broader political and social reforms.
However the first demand of the teachers largely coincided with that of the regime. They
proclaimed that “State education, considered as a public service, has to cover all social needs
and has to absorb basic education of all levels and kinds.
Thus, in 1976, the teachers’ movements demanded that education be viewed as a public
service and that a unified basic education be provided to all children. In the reform of 1970, the
regime had already assumed responsibility for providing all Spaniards with education. In
addition, it introduced Educación General Básica (General Basic Education). The idea behind this
new level of education was precisely to unify the education of all children between 6 and 14. In
this sense, the demands of the teachers coincided largely with those already adopted by the
regime. However, the teachers’ opposition groups aspired for this public service to absorb all
other kinds of educational institutions. The implication of this demand was the abolition of
private education, which was largely in the hands of the Catholic Church. The movements saw
the private sector as a clear threat to authentic democratic education, as it prevented the
creation of a sole, egalitarian public system. This demand would later become one of the most
inflammatory issues separating right and left in the drafting of the democratic constitution of
1978. The freedom of parents to choose to send their children to private schools was presented
by religious and conservative sectors as a basic democratic right. This right obviously clashed
with the left’s demand to guarantee equality. Eventually both rights were recognized, resulting
in a highly ambivalent article on education.
The second main demand of the document differed clearly from the democratic educational
policies of the regime.
A democratic reform includes democratic planning of educational policy and
democratic management of the entire educational system. By advocating it as an
alternative process, by talking about the creation of a new Public School, we are
conscious of the need to break from the current bureaucratic and centralized way
of managing the education system in the Spanish state.
Una Alternativa Para la Enseñanza. Bases de discusión. In Valeriano Bozal, Una alternativa para la
enseñanza, (Madrid: Entropress, 1977).
Ibid, p. 112.
Ibid, p. 113.
According to this model, democracy had to be applied to educational legislation. The
document demanded democratic processes of deliberation. This meant appropriating the
political processes from the dictatorial regime and passing them into the hands of local
authorities, unions and parents’ associations and even students. The document also demanded
the democratic running of the school:
In this way the internal functioning of the school with regards to the concrete
application of the general norms, the hiring and selecting of personnel, the
control of economic funds, pedagogical management will be the responsibility of
teachers, students and parents in a democratic way.
According to their educational agenda, teachers, students and parents would assume an
active part in the running of the schools. This formula, which includes active participation of the
community in the management of the schools, is not very common even today in established
democracies. In many places the education system still follows a more elitist version of
democratic education which is limited to transmitting democratic and civic values, but does not
imply democratic running of schools. The opposition groups of teachers advanced a participative
and active model with regards to the relation between democracy and education. We can trace
the origins of their political ideas to the social revolutions of the 1960s and their criticism of
western democracies. This educational vision based on participative practices was also molded
during the expanding mobilizations against the regime among students, workers and neighbors
in the late Franco period. In the struggles of these sectors we can trace the emergence of an
active participative democracy which teachers wished to apply to the education system.
The ideas of the Alternativa of Madrid were developed in another document published in
the circles of the movements for pedagogical renovation. These were groups of educators that
organized learning sessions for teachers’ professional development. Their aim was to support
young teachers who wanted to replace the dictatorship’s hierarchical model of pedagogy with
liberating and egalitarian teaching techniques. Their origin can be traced back to the second half
of the 1960s, but it was not until the mid-1970s that they began to spread throughout the
country. The most important movement for pedagogical renovation in the late Franco period
was the association of teachers, Rosa Sensat. This Catalan movement played a crucial role in the
expansion of the phenomenon during the 1970s.
In 1975, the Catalan association published its own version of the Alternativa.
Barcelona document mentioned many pedagogical issues that were already present in the
Madrid document, such as the need to foment a scientific vision of the world, to integrate the
child into his/her social context, to develop the students’ ability to observe and criticize, and the
need to take care of all aspects of the child’s life – not only his/her academic abilities. However,
in the Catalan text, issues such as the relation of the school with the community and didactic
methods in the classroom received more attention and were dealt with in greater detail.
Ibid, p. 126.
For a more detailed discussion on the emergence and activities of the movements for pedagogical
renovation see: Tamar Groves, ‘Everyday Struggles against Franco's Authoritarian Legacy: Pedagogical
Social Movements and Democracy in Spain’, Journal of Social History 46 (2), (2012).
The document was called: Por una nueva escuela pública. It can also be found in: Valeriano Bozal, Una
alternativa para la enseñanza, (Madrid: Entropress, 1977).
With regard to the former, the document spoke of a model of a school in which the social
context penetrated the academic work of the school, on the one hand, and the work in the
school contributed to the advancement of the community, on the other. The document added
this important characteristic of the school in the service of the community and the community’s
involvement in the school to the demands of teachers. As we have seen, the 1970 reform also
took on this issue as an important principle. The schools were given autonomy to adjust the
programs to the characteristics and needs of the social context. However in the case of the
Alternativas, it was more than integrating the school into the social context. According to their
vision, the school should be committed to the social and cultural life of the community. It was
to become an integral part of the local social context that in its turn would influence the school’s
contents and operation. The model assumed a vibrant relationship between the school and the
community, and obliged both to create pathways for participation and collaboration.
Also, with respect to work in the classroom, the documents offered socially-committed
practices. Here again, as we have seen, the 1970 reform encouraged teachers to experiment
with and deliver a child-centered education. Nevertheless it naturally lacked the social sensibility
of the teachers’ project:
It is advisable for the teacher to perceive the class in a way that responds to the
needs of the children as a group, and – in the context of the dynamics of the class
group – solve the problems arising from the fact that there are less able and more
The public essence, according to this model, is to be manifested in the classroom as well.
The children constitute a group that has to work in collaboration, rather than as a series of
individuals. This vision of the education system apt for democratic Spain included also the value
of solidarity among its ideas.
The educational policies of the dictatorship suffered a head-on attack on the part of critical
groups of teachers presenting their alternative. Although their program was based on a far more
participative and socially committed vision of education, when it came to many general
characteristics of education, they actually shared some of the regime’s views. In fact, the regime
had come such a long way from its worrisome origins that in the circles of political opposition it
was admitted that it was difficult to criticize the educational policies of the regime at the time.
Before moving on to our concluding remarks, we would like to go back to the textbooks of
the period and to what they can tell us about Spanish classrooms during this crucial period.
Teachers associated with opposition circles tended to avoid using textbooks, precisely in order
to free their classrooms of the influence of the educational establishment. However, in most
classes, these books, some of them authorized during the last phase of the dictatorship, were
still used after the dictator’s death. The transition to democracy, if viewed solely in terms of its
political development, was a swift process. The dictator passed away in November 1975 and
the Democratic constitution was promulgated in December 1978. The following quotations
taken from a textbook sanctioned by the Ministry of Education in 1975 and published in 1978
manifest how complex the situation was. We first look at a quotation taken directly from the
textbook, and then bring handwritten comments made by the person who used the book.
Ibid, p. 193.
Valeriano Bozal, p.40.
The Spanish republic attempted to bring about a democratic and revolutionary
solution to the crisis of solidarity and agreement between the different sectors of
Spanish society. But it quickly inclined towards sectarianism and anarchy. These
extreme orientations necessarily lead to communism and fascist totalitarianism.
The democratic and parliamentary ideal did not materialize.
The following definitions were written on the margins of the pages:
Democracy: Form of government whereby the people exercise power. The
government is assumed by a minority whose legitimacy is based on the their
quality as representatives of popular will, which is expressed by universal suffrage
Republic: Form Of representative government in which sovereignty lies in the hands of
a popular assembly and the President of the Republic, both elected by the people by
universal suffrage and for a determined period of time.
The written definitions supplement the book authorized by the dictatorship but used in a
time of democracy. The new political system forced teachers and students to replace the old
contempt for democracy and the more recent organic model with definitions related to
Western-style democratic institutions and liberties.
Imagining a democratic future
The political elite of the Franco regime was by no means a monolithic group. During the last
years of the dictator’s life, two clear tendencies emerged. On the one hand there were those
who believed that in order to survive, the regime needed to strengthen its hold on civil society
and avoid any steps towards liberalization. The penetration of any foreign ideas was perceived
by them as a threat to the stability of the regime. On the other hand there were those who
believed that a degree of liberalization was needed precisely in order to ensure the continuation
of the regime after the dictator’s death.
As we have seen, with regard to education they
envisioned a modern education system that would follow the recommendations of international
bodies in terms of providing education to all citizens and employing student-centered
methodologies. Nevertheless, they hoped that this would allow the survival of the cultural
essence of the regime centered on Catholicism, nationalism and a certain degree of obedience.
On the other hand critics from the political parties and later from the critical groups of
teachers saw democratization as the first step towards the realization of a much more ambitious
plan, including civic participation and social justice. They demanded active participation of the
community in the running of the education system, as well as solidarity in the classroom. For
them, the public school project implied the abolition of private education and facilitated the
active participation of society in the education process. They imagined a democratic future of
active participation that would guarantee social justice. Neither vision survived the
constitutional monarchic democracy that eventually emerged in Spain. The heirs of the
Juan Rastrilla Pérez, Historia Universal y de España. El mundo contemporáneo. 8º E.G.B. (Madrid:
Ediciones SM, 1978), p. 207 (Approved by the M. of E. and C. dated 25-XI-1975). Italics and bold appear in
The underlined words appear in the textbook.
Carme Molinero and Pere Ysàs La Anatomía Del Franquismo: De la Supervivencia a la Agonía, 1945-
1977 (Barcelona: Crítica, 2008).
dictatorship lost the battle, as they could not democratize crucial social sectors such as
education and keep the old political system. The critical groups of teachers and their social allies
from the opposition also lost, as their democratic vision was marginalized in the new democratic