This time NWONWO’s comments inspired me to write on the topic of higher education and within that the European and thus the Hungarian system of entering medical and law schools right after high school. NWONWO used to believe, and I quote, "that Orban and FIDESZ were just being cynical about how they manipulated these terms and deliberately misconstrued how democratic institutions operate. I am not sure anymore. When one really listens to people like Orban or Kover or Mikola, it strikes me that they neither understand how representative democracies operate nor have any desire to understand them." To tell you the truth I’m not sure either. Or, to be more precise, there are days when I think that this is nothing else but manipulation of the ignorant masses while there are days when I am sure that they don’t have a clue about what democracy is all about. After all, between 1998 and 2002 there were many instances when they blithely ignored democratic rules and conducted the affairs of parliament in a most undemocratic manner.
I don’t know whether any of you remember an old story told by László Kéri, the political scientist who was often invited by the "boys" as a guest lecturer at the by now famous dormitory where Fidesz was born. There were long discussions after the lectures. After one of these evenings, the exasperated Kéri said: "Sorry, I am leaving now and will not return. You are Bolsheviks." What he meant, of course, was that the group of students who later formed Fidesz was intolerant towards those who thought differently. Their zeal and ruthlessness reminded him of the Lenin-led Bolsheviks.
Now comes the question whether this attitude stems from ignorance or from some undemocratic impulse. Let’s face it, democratic thinking is something that must be learned. In American schools, even on the elementary level, students are encouraged to run for office. There is competition: one wins, the other loses. Democracy in action. The Fidesz leadership has not gone through a socialization of this sort. Their formative years coincided with the last fifteen years of the one-party dictatorship. Orbán was twenty-seven years old in 1990. Kövér was even older. Mikola? He lived his whole life during the dictatorship. (He was born in 1947.)
But there is another aspect of the question that must be examined. Orbán occasionally shows a lack of knowledge in areas that we consider part and parcel of a "liberal arts education." Here is this "social contract" stunt. Does anyone thinks that if Orbán were asked what Hobbes or Rousseau meant by the social contract he would be able to give a coherent answer? I doubt it. And that leads me to questioning the European practice of going to law and medical schools straight out of high school. In Canada and the United States one must have a bachelor’s degree before entering a professional school like medicine or law. I think that although it might add an extra three or four years to the future lawyer’s or doctor’s education this system provides better doctors and better lawyers. They have a degree in something else. It can be literature, political science, history, natural or exact sciences. But it gives them a firmer grounding on a higher level in the knowledge of the world. Perhaps if Orbán and Kövér (law school degree straight out of high school) or Mikola (medical school straight out of high school) had a broader understanding of the arts and sciences they would have a different outlook on life and politics. This, of course, may be just a pollyanna former educator speaking.