The images of the catechisms in the Francoist school

The role of the image in school textbooks is twofold: on the one hand, it has an aspect aimed at the acquisition of knowledge (instructive function) and on the other, at the transmission of attitudes, values ​​and norms (transformative function). This second is a valuable source of historical, educational and communication research.

The images of the school manuals are not very studied. For this reason, we have focused our research on the content and characteristics of the catechisms during the Franco period in Spain (1939-76). We have taken into account the legislation of the time related to the publication of school manuals, the presence of images, what types of images were included and their function, both didactic and for the transmission of social models and ideology.

Covers of some of the studied catechisms.
Mª Isabel Martín Requero private library, Author provided

Our results indicate that the images of school catechisms are not simply reflections of a reality that facilitates the learning of the contents that are taught in schools, but also become an effective tool in the transformation of values ​​and thought. ideological and religious of the social context in which they occur.

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Image of a school catechism from the Franco years in Spain.
Mª Isabel Martín Requero private library, Author provided

progressive implementation

The images of the catechisms in the Francoist school show the same traits that characterized the school in this historical period: authoritarianism, Catholicism, patriotism, exaltation of the family institution and the representation of the Church as an institution of power.

The use of the image in catechisms increased progressively throughout the successive periods (first period 1939-1957, second period 1958-1964 and third period 1965-1975). The catechisms incorporated plastic language in the third period, increasing the presence of images in them. Throughout the dictatorship, the image began to be considered as an important didactic resource.

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Drawing that illustrates a school fight, in a catechism of the first period.
Mª Isabel Martín Requero private library, Author provided

From schemes to domestic scenes

Due to the content of the catechisms, the images used were mostly family and religious scenes, religious symbols and schematic drawings.

As a faithful reflection of socially established norms and values, one can see in them patterns of behavior that corresponded to boys and girls, for example.

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Typical behaviors of boys or girls
Mª Isabel Martín Requero private library, Author provided

In the first two periods (1939-1957 and 1958-1964) a strong religious indoctrination is observed. The school used the image to establish the ideals of national-Catholicism (the empire towards God, the school at the service of the country and the State-Church identification) on which the Francoist ideology was based.

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Schematic drawing of the hierarchy of the Church, in a catechism of the first period.
Mª Isabel Martín Requero private library, Author provided

second half of the sixties

However, in the third period (1965-1975) a smaller number of images transmitting these ideals is observed. This is due to the movements and changes that arose in the 1960s as a result of the evolution of the regime. Also to the modernization that took place within the Catholic Church, especially due to the impact of the Second Vatican Council.

This modernization supposes an ideological moderation, also reflected in the use of the image. A new dynamic of Catholic Action takes on importance, fundamentally in the youth, worker and university branches, which shows a clear confrontation with Francoism.

We have been able to verify how the components of school images (maps, graphs, characters, symbols, landscapes, scenes, drawings and works of art) have been categorized to make them expressive and significant.

Perception of reality

It can be affirmed, in a coherent way with what was expressed by the art historian Valeriano Bozal, that images in teaching fulfill a double function: “they inform and express, represent and create”. To this we can add that they also shape and deform, insofar as they impose an interpretative framework and indoctrinate in a persuasive and effective way, significantly conditioning the perception of reality, such as reducing the role of women to being a wife and mother.

“The natural mission assigned by God to women is motherhood; to this natural end we have subordinated everything he does”. Manual of elections for the training courses and instructors of the Home School of the Women’s Section. SF Publications of FET and the JONS (1942)

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Games of imitation of the female role.
Manual of elections for the training courses and instructors of the Home School of the Women’s Section. SF Publications of FET and the JONS (1942), Author provided

All these images could be considered within what has been called the “indirect communicative act”: there are no impositions or orders, there is no argument, there is the pure suggestion of an attractive image accompanied by a text that is recognized as valid.

While other types of images in school textbooks fulfill informative, explanatory, vicarious, or aesthetic/motivating functions, in catechisms we find an absolute preponderance of the use of images as a transmitter of ideology and representative of social models.

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