Education, Caso Koldo and Women’s Day – Random Thoughts #13

March 3, 2024

Hey y’all!

It’s been a quiet week here in Barcelona.

I’ve drunk some coffee, eaten some protein, and gone to jiu jitsu and gotten plenty of new bruises.

In other words, just more of the usual thing.

As always, I’ve also been thinking some of my famous random thoughts about Spain, and about the world, and about life.

So here’s another episode of “Random Thoughts with Mr Chorizo”.

Check out the rest here.

graffiti in spain
Graffiti in Arenys del Mar, from my recent walking tour of Catalonia.

Today we’ve got formal vs informal education, a new corruption scandal called “Caso Koldo” and the run-up to Women’s Day 2024.

Formal vs Informal Education

I’ve got a long draft somewhere of an article I wrote about the education system.

Long story short: I think the whole thing’s a sham.

Formal education has certain benefits for certain people. But it also leaves a lot of people out.

And maybe my case is a bit extreme, but I’m pretty certain that 98% of the actually important things I’ve learned throughout the years have been from informal education.

Just for example: everything about starting and running an online business, which is what I do now.

In my high school we literally learned that “http” stands for “hyper text transfer protocol”. I’m still waiting for an opportunity to use this knowledge – maybe this article is it. Our teachers didn’t use computers. The internet was barely in its version 1.0 back then.

Everything I know about online business – how to make and market products, do SEO, keep track of my cash flow, find, hire and manage “talent” to do things I can’t – all of that I learned on my own, mostly from books or blogs or podcasts.

If I’m being generous, I’ll admit that the idea of writing a five-paragraph essay with introduction and thesis statement, support for the thesis, and finally a conclusion probably helped me out as a writer. Other than that I’d say that what I got from 12 or so years of formal education can be summed up as: some Spanish and some basic math.

Being able to do simple calculations with two-digit numbers in my head is about as useful as my math classes got, back on the ranch. For the rest, there are calculators (and spreadsheets, which, incidentally, I figured out how to use on my own). About once every five years something in my life will turn out to be a one-variable algebraic equation I can solve for X. I learned that in sixth grade.

Oh yeah, and I learned what a subject, a verb, an object and a prepositional phrase were. That might have been sixth or seventh grade as well. And it finally came in handy when I started teaching English.

So apart from those few things, was the whole experience just a waste of time? For me it was, apparently.

warehouse in poblenou, barcelona
Architecture in my neighborhood in Barcelona.

I think it was for plenty of other people, too. We had a whole crowd of stoners and burnouts at my school who didn’t seem to be getting much out of the experience. What happened to all those kids later? I don’t know.

The counter argument here is that maybe what everyone actually needs is more school, or that the schools need more funding, but I’m not buying it. There are probably some underfunded schools out there, but mine wasn’t. Obligatory public education is, in my opinion, a very expensive, time-consuming system that just doesn’t work for large parts of the population.

Anyway, I don’t have a solution here. I’d just like to mention that maybe if we stopped browbeating kids into thinking that their grades in middle school science class are somehow key to their future “success” in the “real world”, we might unleash the hidden potential of a lot of people who just don’t care about the Periodic Table and would be better off doing something else with those years of their lives.

(Full disclosure: I’ve worked in education, as an English teacher here in Spain, and my online business is in education, but I’ve never been involved in formal government-regulated education. I’m nowhere near qualified for it. Perhaps if I were one of those “real teachers” my opinion would be different.)

Moving on…

Caso Koldo – a new corruption scandal in Sanchez’s government

The big Spanish news this week is about “el Caso Koldo”.

I’m a little bit fuzzy on the details, but it appears that the government of the Islas Baleares (Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza, etc) spent a whole lot of money buying defective surgical masks in the first weeks of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Later, when they found out they’d been overcharged (and that the masks weren’t up to spec) they started investigating, and found that they’d given millions of euros to an anonymous shell company and that the whole thing looked pretty shady. Those involved attempted to cover their tracks – and importantly, those involved include prominent members of Pedro Sanchez’s socialist government.

The whole thing is an ongoing investigation, but sending 50 million euros to a shell company and then trying to cover it up once there’s an investigation hardly sounds like something you’d do if you had nothing to hide.

kids in Granollers, Spain
Granollers, Catalonia, Spain.

The irony here is that everybody on the left has been pouting for years about Isabel Díaz Ayuso being the wildly popular President of the Madrid Community, and also a horrible far-right monster or something. I don’t know. I’ve never seen an actual argument against Ayuso. The left is apparently just mad that she exists – and is so popular.

In fact, the closest thing anyone had to an actual argument was a similar case in which Ayuso’s brother received a commission for selling surgical masks to the Madrid government back in 2020.

That was investigated from every angle, by both the Spanish public prosecutors and those of the European Union, and the result was that the whole thing was perfectly legal, that Ayuso knew nothing about it, and that her brother’s commission was valid and reasonable.

(The Díaz Ayuso family has been involved in selling medical equipment and material for several decades, from what I understand, so it’s also not quite the same as a random company with no assets just suddenly billing 50 million.)

Anyway, now with Caso Koldo it’s the “Socialist Workers’ Party” who are under the microscope for possible illegal commissions, but on a much larger scale.

I’m not at all surprised by any of this: people in the government getting rich while everyone else suffers is a long-standing tradition in most countries. It can happen in any party. Just look at über-leftist Pablo Iglesias’ million dollar mansion for more about that. Or, you know, read about the Russian Revolution.

These corruption scandals sometimes drag on for years, sometimes die out pretty quickly. In any case, I find them to be quite boring. Unless something more interesting happens here – like Pedro Sánchez being forced to resign, for example – I wouldn’t expect a lot of updates here on the Chorizo Chronicles. By next week we’ll (most likely) have moved on to something else.

Something else like…

Women’s Day 2024

Last year I wrote a long piece on Women’s Day, which is celebrated every March 8th.

Two things I talked about back then seem worthy of mentioning again: the Ley Trans and the Socialist Party’s big announcement about gender-based quotas in government and big business.

First up, the famous ley trans that (among other things) made it possible to change your “bureaucratic sex” with a simple process at the Civil Registry.

“Bureaucratic sex” is what I’m calling it, anyway, in the absence of better terminology: you can now change the M on your national ID card to an F, or vice versa, without going through any sort of previous medical or psychological evaluation. All you have to do is ask.

I haven’t seen a lot of actual information following up here, except the fact that bureaucratic sex change applications have jumped more than 400% in the year since the law was passed. That’s just over 5000 people in a year – not a huge number, in other words.

According to the available data, about 61% of those applying are attempting to change from “masculino” to “femenino”.

It looks like the transition process might be more difficult than was originally promised, but again, that’s nothing new. Look at the Digital Nomad visa for another case – it’s easy for the government to promise a fast turnaround, and much more difficult for the funcionarios on the front lines to follow through.

I don’t know anything else here, and I don’t, in my day to day, ever ask people for their bureaucratic sex, so it seems like the effect of the ley trans might be minimal so far.

What about the gender quotas in government and big business?

Last year to celebrate Women’s Day, the government promised that future electoral lists would give 50% representation to women, and that big businesses would have to put a minimum of 40% women on their boards of directors.

Well, funny thing about that. For the longest time, I was interpreting news articles in which the government makes huge declarations as if they were statements of fact, when it often seems that they’re merely hopeful intentions for some moment in the distant future.

It must be cultural. The papers use this future tense – el gobierno dará 80.000€ a cada paloma en el parque, for example – and I just (stupidly) assume they’re actually going to do it.

It turns out that they announce a new policy as soon as someone has the idea, but in reality a law has to go through various drafts, spend some time in the Congress, move on to the Senate, they need to find space for it in the budget, it goes back to the Congress, and finally it (if passed) may be published (in amended form) in the Official State Bulletin – the famous Boletín Oficial del Estado.

Nothing is final until then, and so a lot of these “hopeful intentions” never actually happen. Apparently the “Ley de Paridad” is somewhere in the drafting and debating process at this point, and might eventually see the official light of day. Or not. Only time will tell.

My big prediction last year was that these quotas could mix with easy “bureaucratic sex” changes to create some pretty bizarre consequences, and I stand by that. But I guess we’ll have to see both laws in force to know for sure.

“Con pene o con vagina, mujeres combativas”

That’s a chant I heard at Women’s Day here in Barcelona a couple of years ago – suggesting that having a penis doesn’t need to stop one from being a strong, independent woman who fights for her rights.

Last year the Women’s Day marches were separated in two in many Spanish cities, divided over the issue of women with dangly external genitalia. (I don’t have any opinion about what standard “female” genitalia is or should be, of course… I’m just a blogger, not a biologist.)

intersectional feminist graffiti
More graffiti out in Arenys del Mar, Catalonia.

In any case, the controversy seems to have made some people less interested in the whole thing – I’m not seeing nearly as much run-up coverage to Women’s Day this year. Today, a Sunday just five days before the big event, El País has just one article about the feminist movement on their front page. It’s paywalled. El Mundo, ABC and La Vanguardia (the other top papers in Spain) have none.

Maybe they’re waiting for Wednesday to publish their best stuff… but it seems a bit strange after the huge PR push that 8M has gotten in previous years that most of the articles I can find in Google are still about 2023.

We’ll see how the week goes – if anything interesting happens, of course, I’ll report back.

Yours, with dangling external genitalia,

Daniel AKA Mr Chorizo.

P.S. What do you think? Is formal education literally the best thing that’s ever happened to you? Did you or someone you know get rich selling masks during the pandemic? What’s your take on Women’s Day? Let me know… right here in the comments. Thanks!

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About the Author Daniel

How did I end up in Spain? Why am I still here almost 20 years later? Excellent questions. With no good answer... Anyway, at some point I became a blogger, bestselling author and contributor to Lonely Planet. So there's that. Drop me a line, I'm happy to hear from you.

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