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Why Catalonia Will Never Get Rid of Spain
The map of Spain is tattooed into the Catalan landscape, as indelible streets and avenues
After Brexit, here’s more evidence that Europe is crumbling: Catalonia’s parliament just voted to go ahead with plans for what it calls a "unilateral disconnection" from Spain - a euphemism for breaking up on a par with "conscious uncoupling".
Spain’s constitutional court swiftly and unanimously declared the vote illegal. And the Spanish government said it may sue Carme Forcadell, the speaker of the Catalan parliament, for letting the vote go ahead at all. So Madrid won’t let Barcelona go without a fight – at least not a legal fight.
Next red letter day in Catalonia’s long, slow march towards independence is 28 September, when the Catalan parliament will hold a confidence vote that, in the words of Catalonia’s pro-separatist president Carles Puigdemont, could bring the country to "the gates of independence". That option is currently favoured by 47.7% of Catalan voters, according to the latest poll.
But whether or not Catalonia marches through those gates, in a literal sense it can never get rid of Spain: the very outline of the Spanish state is tattooed on Catalonia’s street grid – an indelible reminder of the bonds of history and geography.
To find this Spain-in-Catalonia, zoom in on Badia del Vallès, a municipality of some 14,000 inhabitants half an hour’s drive northwest from Barcelona. Badia is a new town, planned in the 1960s to house thousands of migrant labourers drawn from elsewhere in Spain to the bright lights of Barcelona.
Back then, Spain was still languishing under the dictatorship of Francisco Franco, and very much a unitary state. Talk of autonomy for Catalonia, the Basque country and/or any other of Spain’s regions was tantamount to treason.
Work on Badia started in 1970 and was completed three years later. The town was officially inaugurated in 1975 by Juan Carlos, then still Prince of Asturias. A few years later, as king, Juan Carlos would help guide his country from autocracy to democracy – a course that would eventually also grant more powers to Spain’s regions.
In 1994, Badia del Vallès was incorporated and became an independent municipality. In recognition of that fact that many of the town’s inhabitants came to Badia from other parts of the Iberian peninsula, the municipal flag shows a swallow, the migratory bird par excellence. Another symbol of migration – or, more precisely, of the unitary state that Spain still was in the mid-1970s – can be found in the of the streets in the new town. The grid is laid out to resemble the shape of the Iberian peninsula, with street names to match.
On Google Maps, the shape is a bit tricky to pick up; but rotate the map a bit to the left, as shown on this map published by Madrid’s ABC newspaper, and the streets and avenues align with the shores and borders of the peninsula.
The Avenida del Mediterraneo mirrors the shape of the peninsula’s eastern coastline, the Avenida del Cantabrico (1) is named after Cantabria, on the northern coast. The ‘map’ also includes Portugal, and name-checks, location-appropriately, a Calle de Oporto and a Calle del Algarve.
Back in 'Spain', the Calle de la Bética recalls the Roman province of Baetica in southern Spain. Slightly higher up is the Calle de La Mancha, named after the region otherwise famous for its windmill-chasing knight-errant, Don Quixote. The Avenida de Burgos and the Calle de Zaragoza are named after the eponymous cities.
Not on the ABC map, but visible on Google Maps if you zoom in enough, are the Avenida Costa Brava and the Calle de Santander. To the east, where the Balearic Islands ought to be, are indeed the Calle de Menorca and the Calle de Mallorca.
The main artery, on both the ABC and Google maps, is the Avenida de la Via de la Plata, which translates, in an apparent pleonasm, as the 'Avenue of the Silver Way'. In fact, the Via de la Plata is an age-old route of pilgrimage and trade that traverses western Spain from north to south. 'Silver Way' is actually a misnomer: the name derives from the Arabic balat, which refers to the cobbled road engineered by the Romans, who called it Via Delapidata ('Paved Stone Road'). The road actually predates the Romans, and is thought to find its origin in the prehistoric tin trade.
Badia’s picture of Spain isn’t the only cartographic Gestalt hiding in plain sight, a map in the map. This blog previously discussed a Nebraska-shaped field in Nebraska (#426) and a Danish tourist attraction in the shape of a world map (#727). Not modelled on a map, but conceptually very close to Badia, is Ciudad Evita, the suburb of Buenos Aires modelled after the profile of Evita Peron (#346).
Strange Maps #793
Got a strange map? Let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(1) On Google Maps, which uses the Catalan-language equivalents of the street names cited here in Spanish, the Carrer del Tibidabo replaces the Avinguda del Cantabric, a name now given to a smaller street connecting the former to the Avinguda Costa Brava.
What conditions of the new normal were already appreciated widely?<p>First, we understand that higher education is unique among industries. Some industries are governed by markets. Others are run by governments. Most operate under the influence of both markets and governments. And then there's higher education. Higher education as an "industry" involves public, private, and for-profit universities operating at small, medium, large, and now massive scales. Some higher education industry actors are intense specialists; others are adept generalists. Some are fantastically wealthy; others are tragically poor. Some are embedded in large cities; others are carefully situated near farms and frontiers.</p> <p>These differences demonstrate just some of the complexities that shape higher education. Still, we understand that change in the industry is underway, and we must be active in directing it. Yet because of higher education's unique (and sometimes vexing) operational and structural conditions, many of the lessons from change management and the science of industrial transformation are only applicable in limited or highly modified ways. For evidence of this, one can look at various perspectives, including those that we have offered, on such topics as <a href="https://www.insidehighered.com/digital-learning/blogs/rethinking-higher-education/lessons-disruption" target="_blank">disruption</a>, <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/20/education/learning/education-technology.html" target="_blank">technology management</a>, and so-called "<a href="https://www.insidehighered.com/sites/default/server_files/media/Excerpt_IHESpecialReport_Growing-Role-of-Mergers-in-Higher-Ed.pdf" target="_blank">mergers and acquisitions</a>" in higher education. In each of these spaces, the "market forces" and "market rules" for higher education are different than they are in business, or even in government. This has always been the case and it is made more obvious by COVID-19.</p> <p>Second, with so much excitement about innovation in higher education, we sometimes lose sight of the fact that students are—and should remain—the core cause for innovation. Higher education's capacity to absorb new ideas is strong. But the ideas that endure are those designed to benefit students, and therefore society. This is important to remember because not all innovations are designed with students in mind. The recent history of innovation in higher education includes several cautionary tales of what can happen when institutional interests—or worse, <a href="https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2016/02/09/apollos-new-owners-seek-fresh-start-beleaguered-company" target="_blank">shareholder</a> interests—are placed above student well-being.</p>
Photo: Getty Images<p>Third, it is abundantly apparent that universities must leverage technology to increase educational quality and access. The rapid shift to delivering an education that complies with social distancing guidelines speaks volumes about the adaptability of higher education institutions, but this transition has also posed unique difficulties for colleges and universities that had been slow to adopt digital education. The last decade has shown that online education, implemented effectively, can meet or even surpass the quality of in-person <a href="https://link-springer-com.ezproxy1.lib.asu.edu/article/10.1007/s10639-019-10027-z" target="_blank">instruction</a>.</p><p>Digital instruction, broadly defined, leverages online capabilities and integrates adaptive learning methodologies, predictive analytics, and innovations in instructional design to enable increased student engagement, personalized learning experiences, and improved learning outcomes. The ability of these technologies to transcend geographic barriers and to shrink the marginal cost of educating additional students makes them essential for delivering education at scale.</p><p>As a bonus, and it is no small thing given that they are the core cause for innovation, students embrace and enjoy digital instruction. It is their preference to learn in a format that leverages technology. This should not be a surprise; it is now how we live in all facets of life.</p><p>Still, we have only barely begun to conceive of the impact digital education will have. For example, emerging virtual and augmented reality technologies that facilitate interactive, hands-on learning will transform the way that learners acquire and apply new knowledge. Technology-enabled learning cannot replace the traditional college experience or ensure the survival of any specific college, but it can enhance student learning outcomes at scale. This has always been the case, and it is made more obvious by COVID-19.</p>
What conditions of the new normal were emerging suspicions?<p>Our collective thinking about the role of institutional or university-to-university collaboration and networking has benefitted from a new clarity in light of COVID-19. We now recognize more than ever that colleges and universities must work together to ensure that the American higher education system is resilient and sufficiently robust to meet the needs of students and their families.</p> <p>In recent weeks, various commentators have suggested that higher education will face a wave of institutional <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/scott-galloway-predicts-colleges-will-close-due-to-pandemic-2020-5" target="_blank">closures</a> and consolidations and that large institutions with significant online instruction capacity will become dominant.</p> <p>While ASU is the largest public university in the United States by enrollment and among the most well-equipped in online education, we strongly oppose "let them fail" mindsets. The strength of American higher education relies on its institutional diversity, and on the ability of colleges and universities to meet the needs of their local communities and educate local students. The needs of learners are highly individualized, demanding a wide range of options to accommodate the aspirations and learning styles of every kind of student. Education will become less relevant and meaningful to students, and less responsive to local needs, if institutions of higher learning are allowed to fail. </p> <p>Preventing this outcome demands that colleges and universities work together to establish greater capacity for remote, distributed education. This will help institutions with fewer resources adapt to our new normal and continue to fulfill their mission of serving students, their families, and their communities. Many had suspected that collaboration and networking were preferable over letting vulnerable colleges fail. COVID-19's new normal seems to be confirming this.</p>
Photo by Joshua Lott/Getty Images<p>A second condition of the new normal that many had suspected to be true in recent years is the limited role that any one university or type of university can play as an exemplar to universities more broadly. For decades, the evolution of higher education has been shaped by the widespread imitation of a small number of elite universities. Most public research universities could benefit from replicating Berkeley or Michigan. Most small private colleges did well by replicating Williams or Swarthmore. And all universities paid close attention to Harvard, Princeton, MIT, Stanford, and Yale. It is not an exaggeration to say that the logic of replication has guided the evolution of higher education for centuries, both in the US and abroad.</p><p>Only recently have we been able to move beyond replication to new strategies of change, and COVID-19 has confirmed the legitimacy of doing so. For example, cases such as <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/education/2020/03/10/harvard-moves-classes-online-advises-students-stay-home-after-spring-break-response-covid-19/" target="_blank">Harvard's</a> eviction of students over the course of less than one week or <a href="https://www.nhregister.com/news/coronavirus/article/Mayor-New-Haven-asks-for-coronavirus-help-Yale-15162606.php" target="_blank">Yale's apparent reluctance</a> to work with the city of New Haven, highlight that even higher education's legacy gold standards have limits and weaknesses. We are hopeful that the new normal will include a more active and earnest recognition that we need many types of universities. We think the new normal invites us to rethink the very nature of "gold standards" for higher education.</p>
A graduate student protests MIT's rejection of some evacuation exemption requests.
Photo: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images<p>Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we had started to suspect and now understand that America's colleges and universities are among the many institutions of democracy and civil society that are, by their very design, incapable of being sufficiently responsive to the full spectrum of modern challenges and opportunities they face. Far too many higher education outcomes are determined by a student's family income, and in the context of COVID-19 this means that lower-income students, first-generation students and students of color will be disproportionately afflicted. And without new designs, we can expect postsecondary success for these same students to be as elusive in the new normal, as it was in the <a href="http://pellinstitute.org/indicators/reports_2019.shtml" target="_blank">old normal</a>. This is not just because some universities fail to sufficiently recognize and engage the promise of diversity, this is because few universities have been designed from the outset to effectively serve the unique needs of lower-income students, first-generation students and students of color.</p>
Where can the new normal take us?<p>As colleges and universities face the difficult realities of adapting to COVID-19, they also face an opportunity to rethink their operations and designs in order to respond to social needs with greater agility, adopt technology that enables education to be delivered at scale, and collaborate with each other in order to maintain the dynamism and resilience of the American higher education system.</p> <p>COVID-19 raises questions about the relevance, the quality, and the accessibility of higher education—and these are the same challenges higher education has been grappling with for years. </p> <p>ASU has been able to rapidly adapt to the present circumstances because we have spent nearly two decades not just anticipating but <em>driving</em> innovation in higher education. We have adopted a <a href="https://www.asu.edu/about/charter-mission-and-values" target="_blank">charter</a> that formalizes our definition of success in terms of "who we include and how they succeed" rather than "<a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2019/10/17/forget-varsity-blues-madness-lets-talk-about-students-who-cant-afford-college/" target="_blank">who we exclude</a>." We adopted an entrepreneurial <a href="https://president.asu.edu/read/higher-logic" target="_blank">operating model</a> that moves at the speed of technological and social change. We have launched initiatives such as <a href="https://www.instride.com/how-it-works/" target="_blank">InStride</a>, a platform for delivering continuing education to learners already in the workforce. We developed our own robust technological capabilities in ASU <a href="https://edplus.asu.edu/" target="_blank">EdPlus</a>, a hub for research and development in digital learning that, even before the current crisis, allowed us to serve more than 45,000 fully online students. We have also created partnerships with other forward-thinking institutions in order to mutually strengthen our capabilities for educational accessibility and quality; this includes our role in co-founding the <a href="https://theuia.org/" target="_blank">University Innovation Alliance</a>, a consortium of 11 public research universities that share data and resources to serve students at scale. </p> <p>For ASU, and universities like ASU, the "new normal" of a post-COVID world looks surprisingly like the world we already knew was necessary. Our record breaking summer 2020 <a href="https://asunow.asu.edu/20200519-sun-devil-life-summer-enrollment-sets-asu-record" target="_blank">enrollment</a> speaks to this. What COVID demonstrates is that we were already headed in the right direction and necessitates that we continue forward with new intensity and, we hope, with more partners. In fact, rather than "new normal" we might just say, it's "go time." </p>
Can an orgasm a day really keep the doctor away?