Education for Separatism: The Belgian Experience

  • Elizabeth Sherman Swing
Part of the Topics in Language and Linguistics book series (TLLI)


When Charles Baudelaire visited Belgium in 1865, he commented somewhat condescendingly on a peculiar schizophrenia in the heart of the young nation: ‘Une partie peut s’en aller à la Prusse, la partie flamande à la Hollande, et les provinces wallonnes à la France. —Grand malheur pour nous! (1953:196). Were Baudelaire to return today, he might not find Belgians as ready to embrace another national identity, but he would find the same centrifugal forces in their society that he had observed a century ago, including a clearly articulated federation movement. The high-rise apartment buildings, the acres of concrete parking lots at the new shopping centers, the everyday traffic jams—all symbols of Belgium’s frenetic embrace of postwar technocracy sometimes referred to as ‘Americanization’—might momentarily suggest one hundred years of change. Yet if Baudelaire were to ask about political developments, he would learn that semiautonomous communities—Dutch-speaking Flanders, Francophone Wallonia, and a small German-speaking area in the eastern section of Liège Province—have begun to replace a unitary Belgian nation-state; that throughout the 1970’s and into the 1980’s cabinets fell over the implementation of this communal structure. The linguistic divisions still remain.


Mother Tongue Bilingual Education Language Declaration Linguistic Minority Flemish Community 
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  1. 2.
    See, for example, Verheyen (1929). A more recent statement is found in Bustamante, van Overbeke, and Verdoodt (1978).Google Scholar
  2. 5.
    See Wilmars (1966) for a discussion of the historical dimensions of this phenomenon. See also Picard (1942–59).Google Scholar
  3. 27.
    lnterview with M. Totté, Brussels, July 1979.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1982

Authors and Affiliations

  • Elizabeth Sherman Swing

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