National unity in cultural diversity: how national and linguistic identities affected Swiss language curricula (1914–1961)
Anja Giudici & Sandra Grizelj
By the end of the nineteenth century, the relationship between the state, language and schooling had become extremely close: a state was supposed to be “national”, and a real nation was supposed to be monolingual. Following the literature on nation-building, it is because schooling was charged with the task of forming such nations that curricula intended for the great majority of pupils included only one language. The theory of a direct effect of national identity on curricula was elaborated by focusing on the typical monolingual nation-state. This paper discusses the theory from the perspective of a multilingual state: Switzerland. The study’s analysis shows that in the 1914–1945 period the Swiss state’s multilingualism became part of the Swiss national identity and learning another national language became a matter of patriotic education. However, this new conception did not affect all curricula in the same manner. The economic and pedagogical rationales given voice by actors other than the state seem to be equally important factors in explaining the decisions made regarding language curricula as a state’s national identity. Therefore,
warning is given against the assumption that a school’s language policy automatically aligns with a state’s national identity.