Education on terrorism reaches Spanish classrooms
A graffiti with the message “Always with the people. Thank you. Long live ETA”, on the fronton of Hernani (Gipuzkoa).Javier Hernandez

With the ETA terrorism over, Spanish society has a key challenge in transmitting the 60 years of political violence that marked life in Spain to the younger generations. The first initiatives, in the midst of terrorist activity, were testimonies from victims, such as Cristina Cuesta, and associations such as the Miguel Angel Blanco Foundation, Bakea or Covite, which published texts. They were seconded by the Navarrese Government and, towards the end of terrorism, the Executive of Patxi López with its program of educating victims. Ten years later, the most rigorous and systematized educational plan on terrorism is deployed on a national scale, updated with the new signs of hatred, according to Isabel Celaá, Minister of Education and promoter in 2011 of the Basque program of educating victims.

There are seven teaching units, written by six experts in the four languages ​​of Spain, coordinated by historian Raúl López Romo, from the Memorial Center for Victims of Terrorism. The team began its drafting four years ago, during the Government of Mariano Rajoy and has finished it with that of Pedro Sánchez. There are 264 pages and 28 class sessions. The pandemic has delayed its deployment and its promoters hope to spread them in the 2021-22 course. Minister Celaá underlines its need because “young people do not know the terrorist past and in order not to repeat it, they have to know it.”

The didactic units are for students of 1st and 4th of ESO and of 1st and 2nd of Baccalaureate. They address terrorism from history – “Terrorism in Spain” and “International terrorism in the contemporary world” -; ethical values ​​- “An invisible skin against terrorism” and “Victims of terrorism and human rights” -; philosophy – “Argument as a response to terrorism” -; and psychology – “Violent radicalization”. The latter is very topical when analyzing the phenomenon of hatred, Celaá emphasizes, although the most visible, because it is addressed to 4th year of ESO, is “Terrorism in Spain”, designed for the subject of History.

“It is a support material for teachers. The recent history of Spain cannot be told without terrorism. It is a rigorous account of all —ETA, GAL, BVE, jihadism— without comparisons, according to its importance, its victims and its context. It also relates the police and social response, from Gesture for Peace to Enough Now ”, explains historian López Romo.

The coordinator admits that his claim is to “delegitimize terrorism.” “He had no excuse. The end does not justify the means. Killing is not defending an idea. Nor do we try to impose a story. We are rigorous with the facts, but we use history to learn from the past and not repeat it ”, he says.

The teaching units are intended to educate and also move with the incorporation of victims’ testimonies, explains López Romo. Some have participated in the classrooms as educational victims in the Basque Country and in pilot experiences on a national scale. “The direct testimony of the victims is the best way to reach many students who are unaware of terrorism,” says Montserrat Torija, general director of support for the Victims of Terrorism. It attaches special importance to the selection of educating victims and has the associations for this. “Not all victims serve. They must know how to communicate, reject hatred, transmit ethical and constitutional values ​​”. A striking feature of them is having banished revenge.

The value of testimony

“The victims leave their mark,” says Torija, present in the pilot experiences. “The students are very respectful of them. The silence is usually spectacular during the testimonies. It is difficult to start the discussion. Then the questions are triggered. Frequently, students highlight the testimony of the victims as the most impressive thing in the course. They react with a mixture of surprise, fear, and curiosity. There is a lot of demand for knowledge of terrorism in the classrooms ”. Torija considers it essential to link the testimonies to the texts of the didactic units because they contextualize the facts. “The victims provide the testimony and the teachers, the training.”

Teaching is transferred to the autonomous communities. They are the ones who need training on memory and terrorism prevention. Madrid, La Rioja, Castilla León, Extremadura, Navarra, Andalusia and the Valencian Community have been interested in the didactic units since in July the Ministers of Education, Isabel Celaá, and Interior, Fernando Grande-Marlaska, communicated by letter to all that they were would publish in 2021. Schools have to adapt it.

In the 2017-18 academic year, Madrid had a pilot-experience on educating victims. 14 participated in 52 centers. In the 2018-19 academic year, it was expanded to La Rioja, with 14 centers; Valladolid with 19; Extremadura with 34 and another 23 more in Madrid. In total 14,000 students have received educational victims. With the pandemic, it was suspended and the next course will be relaunched. “Our task is to spread education about terrorism and we will visit the missing communities,” announces Torija.

López Romo recognizes that not all classrooms in Spain can be reached directly. “But teachers can find teaching units on terrorism on the internet, with testimonies included, without making miraculous catches on the nets. It is a material designed to remain, with which teachers can write manuals ”.

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