The new ethics textbook for Hungarian fifth graders

What can one say about the newly introduced ethics textbook for Hungarian fifth graders? For starters, it is not, strictly speaking, an ethics text.  Ethics is not a branch of religion, and being ethical is not the same as following the law or adhering to societal norms. So a textbook that lauds religious virtues and advocates unquestioning civil obedience doesn’t belong in an ethics class.

The authors of this non-ethics textbook are Ferenc Bánhegyi and Mrs. Olajos Ilona Kádár. Bánhegyi seems to be a favorite of the Orbán government because he is also the sole author of the history book intended for fifth graders. Perhaps the best introduction to Ferenc Bánhegyi’s worldview is his outline for a forthcoming history textbook. The dominant theme of the book is the unjust attacks on Hungary and Hungarians through the ages. His goal is to refute these charges and to blame foreigners for Hungary’s misfortunes. Pity the poor student who has to give the “right” answer to such questions as why Mihály Károlyi was viewed favorably in the West and given a villa in France. Or, in a similar vein (and with, I presume, a similar answer expected) why Ferenc Gyurcsány is more acceptable in Western Europe than Viktor Orbán.

Surely, the bureaucrats of the Ministry of Human Resources, in particular Rózsa Hoffmann and her crew, knew about this man’s predilection for both historical falsification and anti-Semitism and racism. One of Bánhegyi’s history textbooks already had to be withdrawn in 2000. It seems that the first Orbán government was less forgiving than the second one.

Admittedly, there was some serious editing of the new ethics textbook. Here’s one notable passage. The original read: “The Hungarians are one of the most welcoming people in Europe. They are hospitable and friendly. This was the case from the time of Saint Stephen until the beginning of the twentieth century when the lost war and the many different people whom Hungarians welcomed helped to break up the country. Our people even after that remained welcoming and hospitable, but the deep wound Trianon caused still hasn’t healed.” That’s how the text read in May when reporters of 444.hu got hold of it. In the final product the text was changed to: “The Hungarians are one of Europe’s hospitable nations. We know that King Saint Stephen urged our ancestors to welcome strangers and honor other people.” Quite a difference. Of course, today’s Hungarians are among the most xenophobic people in Europe; just lately whole villages were in an uproar over plans to build shelters for political refugees in their vicinity.

The parents who didn’t want their children to receive religious education and who opted for ethics as the lesser evil are not better off. Perhaps worse. The whole book sounds like a guidebook to Christian-national conservative ideology. The book is full of religious references and praise for Christian communities. Thus virtue figures large in the textbook. Among the virtues the Bánhegyi-Olajos textbook lists are patriotism, religiosity, pride, heroism, and strength. Moreover, we learn from this book that “the greatest act of a brave man is martyrdom.” I hope that none of the children take that too seriously.

The line between religion and ethics is blurred: “religious communities provide values, order, security.” The authors bemoan the fact that relatively few young people seek the help of the clergy in solving their problems. I might add here that the only religious communities the textbook refers to are Catholic and Hungarian Reformed. The textbook claims that religious people are more caring than others and that “religious communities can greatly assist in the development of deep and close friendships.” It blames the media and the free market economy for the deterioration of public morality.

Michelangelo's Seven Virtues, Uffizi Gallery

Michelangelo’s Seven Virtues, Uffizi Gallery

However objectionable all this may be, it is a marked improvement over Bánhegyi’s earlier ethics textbook that caused quite an upheaval in 2004 when it came out. That book contained such sentences as “the communist leading members of the Hungarian Soviet Republic came from the Jewry who were responsible for many people’s death.” Or, “the Roma came from India and spread all over the world. Because of prejudice and of their own attitude they were forced to the neglected far ends of the villages where they just manage to subsist. Many Roma children finish school without sufficient knowledge and thus unfortunately the mass of unschooled and uneducated children will get reproduced.”

Bánhegyi’s troubles with at least two of his earlier textooks may actually have been a plus as far as Rózsa Hoffmann was concerned. Religiosity and nationalism are the two pillars of the current Orbán government.  The Bánhegyi-Olajos textbook serves this purpose perfectly. After all, “the goal of morality is to make our nation strong.” Read that sentence again and weep. The present government surely must be satisfied with the book’s emphasis on law and order and its claim that all laws must be obeyed. Laws presumably are never immoral. Or at least the laws enacted by the Orbán government aren’t.

The authors don’t hide their prejudices. Just like Rózsa Hoffmann they complain about the widespread use of the English language; they don’t understand why the American dollar is used worldwide as a reserve currency; they find it objectionable that American films are popular. They don’t like computer games and contend that older games were better. They expect youngsters always to ask the advice of adults, and they insist that today’s youngsters are not as moral as their predecessors. They hold old-fashioned views on the family and consider modernity the source of many evils in this world.

In brief, the book doesn’t pose questions about ethical issues but tells the children what, according to currently dominant Hungarian ideology, is right and what is wrong. It reminds me of books written for teenage Catholic boys in the 1930s that gave advice on how to become an ideal Catholic youth. To mangle Tennyson, theirs not to reason why, theirs just to accept and comply.

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Sep2
Guest

Who talks about falsification in Hungary? Too dangerous? Orban watches you.

“Surely, the bureaucrats of the Ministry of Human Resources, in particular Rózsa Hoffmann and her crew, knew about this man’s predilection for both historical falsification and anti-Semitism and racism. One of Bánhegyi’s history textbooks already had to be withdrawn in 2000. It seems that the first Orbán government was less forgiving than the second one.”

Most Hungarians are afraid to look into opposition papers. Galamus readership is close to zero. Klub Radio can be written off. ATV is less and less present.

People do not want to know bad news about the Fidesz.
Forbidden.
The nation is leaving in a disciplined fear, and does not want to ignite the anger of the Fidesz guard dogs.

The dignity of Hungary has been damaged beyond repair.

The darkness of this medieval epoch will not end quickly.

Member

Does anyone know if homeschooling is allowed in Hungary or not? I know of many families in Toronto who opted for homeschooling until junior high or high school. Is that an option in Hungary?

tappanch
Guest

Some1 :
Does anyone know if homeschooling is allowed in Hungary or not? I know of many families in Toronto who opted for homeschooling until junior high or high school. Is that an option in Hungary?

Kádár gave permission to the Polgár family to raise world champions in chess,
Zsuzsa (1969, now in USA), Zsófia (1974, now in Israel) and Judit (1976).

Paul
Guest

My daughter (year 4) is studying WWI this term. I must admit it came as a bit of a shock to me that a child of only 8 should be exposed to the brutality and horror of that conflict, and this has led to some fairly intense debate in our household, and I’ve already found myself wanting to ‘correct’ some of the stuff she’s being taught.

But at least we don’t have to deal with Orbán’s view of Trianon!

Although, when I mentioned that Hungary had been involved in the war as well (the topic is taught from an almost entirely Western viewpoint here) and that the end result had been a disaster for Hungary and a terrible trauma, the effects of which were still felt today, she interrupted me and said “I know, Nagypapa has already told me”…

tappanch
Guest

This is how the public elementary school of Csillaghegy advertised the mandatory ethics class to parents:

“Both the content and the spirit of [Banhegyi’s Ethics textbook for 5th graders] and our ethics teachers’ [ideological] inclinations create a bridge to the teachings of the historical churches”

http://csillaghegyialtisk.hu/aktualis/level.doc

Separation of church and state is finished in Orban’s Hungary.

LwiiH
Guest
Paul : I’ve already found myself wanting to ‘correct’ some of the stuff she’s being taught. In my case having the kids exposed to poor English teachers made it easier to correct the interesting take on history that was taught. We’d had to caution them about laughing at the english teachers when they said something ridiculous. How they ended up in English class in the first place is another story. The ethics propaganda was a part of the reason we jettisoned the Hungarian system. In retrospect there are many better reasons to do this such as under funding and overcrowding. As for home schooling… All children must belong to a school. To be homeschooled requires that the school agree which means it only happens when a child has some special requirement that makes regular school impractical. They still have to be tested by that school. So, it does happen but it’s very difficult and very uncommon. Having a disability doesn’t count as disabled children end up in special schools. (and that is yet another mess as those with (and I wince when I say this) simple disabilities such as hearing or sight loss with normal intelligence are mixed with those… Read more »
Member

tappanch :
This is how the public elementary school of Csillaghegy advertised the mandatory ethics class to parents:
“Both the content and the spirit of [Banhegyi’s Ethics textbook for 5th graders] and our ethics teachers’ [ideological] inclinations create a bridge to the teachings of the historical churches”
http://csillaghegyialtisk.hu/aktualis/level.doc
Separation of church and state is finished in Orban’s Hungary.

WHo pays the religious study teachers? Ar the religious teachers double dipping? “A hit- és erkölcstan órát a helyi egyházközösség lelkésze vagy hitoktatója tartja.”

Member
LwiiH : OT, the Mercedes plant is amazing. Kudo’s to OV for getting the plant to be built here. Just to clarify here something. It is NOT OV hwo Hungary should be thankful for for the Mercedes plant! October 27, 2008 http://www.emercedesbenz.com/Oct08/27_001472_Mercedes_Benz_And_Hungary_Government_Sign_Cooperation_Agreement_To_Build_New_Plant_In_Kecskemet.html “At the Hungarian Parliament today, Rainer Schmückle, Chief Operating Officer of Mercedes-Benz Cars, and Gordon Bajnai, Hungarian Minister for National Development and Economy, signed a cooperation agreement for the construction of a new plant in Kecskemét. On hand to witness the signing were Ferenc Gyurcsány, Prime Minister of Hungary, and Dr. Gábor Zombor, the Mayor of the city of Kecskemét, as well as additional representatives from both Mercedes-Benz and the Hungarian government. Mercedes-Benz is building the plant to create additional production capacity in the compact car segment, which the company will be expanding from two to four vehicles in the next few years. The project will come at an investment of some €800 million and create up to 2,500 jobs, while production at the plant will be more than 100,000 compact models annually beginning in 2012.” OV is only responsible for the new development announced by Mercedes: “The CLA is being built in Hungary. The B-Class Electric will… Read more »
Mercédesz Ben
Guest

Lwiih: Wrong.

It was Gyurcsány who got the MB plant. It was announced in the summer of 2008.

Orbán only cut the ribbon.

But he made sure everyone believed it was his triumph.

Guest
Fidesz really wants to take Hungary back to the Dark Age – or at least 200 years … In a way this is really depressing but on the other hand we all know that it won’t work – even in places like the real North Korea (which is my favourite comparison to Hungary …) the young people are inquisitive and rebellious … A bit OT: 60 years ago the situation of the young people in West Germany (and probably all over Western Europe) was similar – we were obliged by the school to go to church once and had two hours of “religion” in school every week – the only choice was catholic or protestant ? But we rebelled – although most of the parents were on the conservative side. I clearly remember that I and the boy sitting next to me played a kind of game during “Religionsunterricht” in the gymnasium. We would decide on a symbol like gold or iron and then open the big geography book on a random page, look at the map and count the number of those symbols on the two pages – the guy with the higher number won! That was probably really… Read more »
Kirsten
Guest

LwiiH: “OT, the Mercedes plant is amazing. Kudo’s to OV for getting the plant to be built here.”

As Mercedesz writes, that investment was decided before OV took over, and he apparently boasts about it at the same time as he speaks of the money that foreign companies rob in Hungary. There appears to be some strategical cooperation with some large companies, perhaps one should at least keep an eye on what type of “cooperation” this all includes.

Nicky
Guest

Re: Home schooling. There is a small home-schooling network in Hungary,we have friends who home school. From what I know,they are required to be tested every six months or so. I’ll need to check this,though. Their village is very far from the nearest school. With village schools closing down, more and more children are having to travel long distances to get to school. Regarding the issue mentioned above of children with high-functioning autism: My children attend a Waldorf school where there are a few children with autism. With extra help,they thrive in the Waldorf school. Unfortunately,as someone above mentioned,most children with learning difficulties,or other problems, are sent to the ‘special’ schools,which are apparently the last place on earth you’d want to send your children. If schools invested in extra help and support (such as a special needs teacher) many children could be integrated in to regular schools.

Sep3
Guest

The bothers Finkelstein/Orban painted a fake picture.
“Gyurcsany the communits monster”
The intellectually challenged citizens, from young to old, love it.

The polarization created the insane 2/3 majority.

One of the results is the Orban/Hoffman plan for education.
More medieval religiousity, less enlightened history.

LwiiH
Guest
Nicky : Re: Home schooling. There is a small home-schooling network in Hungary,we have friends who home school. From what I know,they are required to be tested every six months or so. I’ll need to check this,though. Their village is very far from the nearest school. With village schools closing down, more and more children are having to travel long distances to get to school. Indeed they are required to take the same exams as those who are attending full time. What we found from our exploration of the topic is that it’s very difficult to get approval to home school. You have to have a very special circumstance to be able to do so. I guess not having a school near by would count as a special circumstance. Regarding the issue mentioned above of children with high-functioning autism: My children attend a Waldorf school where there are a few children with autism. With extra help,they thrive in the Waldorf school. As far as I know, there is only one clinic in Budapest that knows how to deal with HFA but they are so strapped for funding that they aren’t able to offer the range of programs that you’d find… Read more »
LwiiH
Guest

Kirsten :
As Mercedesz writes, that investment was decided before OV took over, and he apparently boasts about it

Sorry but you missed my sarcasm.

Member

I sometime wonder if we (on this Blog) accept to much from Hungarians when we want them to be informed, read the opinion of the opposition, read and respect others’. Often Hungarians made up their mind on one party or person, often because there was something in the past or there is something in the present the person/party stood for they have tend to disagree with. Sometimes the message they find ineloquent or simply they do not even bother to give attention. Some people decides to stay away from politics as they feel their opinion does not matter, as there is always someone who is more popular, or there is someone who speaks louder and that is what matters to most, and they cannot make a change. I strongly believe that as informed most people are on this blog, and as much I respect other’s opinion (with the exception of Roma haters, and those who label all Hungarians anti-semites, but still enjoy great popularity), not everyone extend the same courtesy.
“Each particle is a microcosm, and faithfully renders the likeness of the world.” R.W. Emerson

Guest

A sure sign for the involvment in politics will be the participation of voters which afaik has been relatively low in Hungary in the last 24 years (those years before 1989 obviously don’t count …).

So what do you expect ? ill there be a higher participation next year or will people stay at home – because it’s no use voting anyway ?

A bit OT:

I’m waiting anxiously for the results of our elections in Germany: Tomorrow the Bavarian parliament will be elected and next Sunday the Berlin parliament. I don’t expect much change – the conservatives seem to be entrenched, but of course our German conservatives are a million more times liberal than Fidesz!

Just to remind you: Our very conservative ex-chancellor helmut Kohl not only has fully accepted his Turkish daughter in law – he even agreed to be “best man” at the wedding of one of his consultants. The the point there is that it was a same-sex marriage of two men in their fifties who have been openly living together for a long time – just like our foreign minister …

Mutt
Guest
No way that this garbage will make a dent in a child’s brain with an IQ above 75. Just think about the Communist era books and other means of brainwash. Just look at our generation – we were supposed to learn the glory of the communism and the morally superior communist individuals. t didn’t work, did it. Now why would this work? Apropos martyrdom. Do you remember Pavlik Morozov, the martyr? This is what’s coming? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pavlik_Morozov In the commie era there was this “unofficial” homeschooling when parents “explained” the books at home. This propaganda not only didn’t work, it actually backfired on the commies. Because many things had to be discussed at home. The system constantly put the suspicion into the head of the children that somebody is lying to them big time. The Fidesz moral warriors even made propaganda movies to support the ethics education in the new Fidesz curriculum. “Are you sure they learned ethics before” is the catch phrase. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gazSpcU1nAQ How on earth can they believe that there will be less sleazy car salesmen if they teach them this garbage? What these Semjens and Hoffmanns think about themselves? WTF makes them morally superior to us? We don’t… Read more »
qaz
Guest

Re: Mercedes
Not only the current government did not get Mercedes to make a substantial investment in Hungary but the professional and talented team of ITDH who were the people who really made it happen, were summarily fired shortly after the last election. They were the people actually working in the shadow, doing the legwork selling Hungary for that and other foreign investments to happen.
ITDH was the organization in charge of promoting foreign direct investment (FDI) in Hungary.

Sep4
Guest

The school reform is needed. The current effort is just a further erosion of the education.
The national educational has crashed long time ago.
The socialist era took its tool.
The regime change has further ruined all.
Today, Hungary is the home of the dumb.
The jobbik/fidess….read super trash, believes in all rumors and kisses the hand of the great vezeer.
Truly depressing.

andysomos
Guest
I am surprised by two things in the previous discussion. Left out in the editorial and the discussion was the important information that the school-book actually has been printed and distributed with the uncorrected version of the offending statement regarding the wave of immigrans arriving in Hungary. Professor Tamas Ungvary had the following to say on the issue: http://www.atv.hu/belfold/20130909-ungvari-tamas My other suprise was the inaccurate traslation to English of the statement, namely „Sok befogadott nép szétbomlasztotta az országot” hardly translates to “…helped to break up the country”. In my estimation “szétbomlasztott” has a large connotation of ‘having a putrid effect that results in blowing to bits…’ Particularly when used in a politically charged context. — To move to a more general discussion regarding the education of ethical behavior, I have personally since years advocated the teaching of ethics and ethical activity at all levels of the Hungarian educational system. For the simple reason that it is evident, that missing is an ethical sytem of norms which in England for example is ingrained in society through many hundreds of years of tradition and lore. Due to 70 years or more of unlawful examples set by political forces here it is no… Read more »
andy
Guest

Eva, my words were evidently not an alternative translation. It aims to point to the possible connotations that triggered the ruckus about the phrase and another reason for its exclusion.

The issue of the original version appearing in the edited, printed, bound and distributed book despite the changes agreed to and proofed by the authorities raises further alarms as to the very real current ‘ethical’ atmosphere.

Nicky
Guest
Responding to LwiiH: Just a brief response regarding ASD. Yes,you are right,we are very lucky in our Waldorf school. Our lovely special needs teacher also has a child with ASD, so is very committed and well informed. It’s worth noting that conditions such as ADD/ADHD are also on the rise. With limited funding and support,as you mentioned,there could be more and more children being sent to special schools,who could otherwise have done well academically,simply because there symptoms are incorrectly diagnosed,or they are labelled as disruptive. Responding to your comments above ‘Some1’ – you made a very good point about whether we expect too much from Hungarians regarding their knowledge of what’s going on here. How can anyone know when there is so much manipulation of the media!? If I hadn’t discovered this site,I would probably still be in the dark,myself. I was still sold on the ‘Two thirds majority’ and how Fidesz were all about looking after Hungarians,because they cared! This was what I was being told by people around me,and what I saw in the papers. Even now,my friends come out with positive comments about Fidesz,and excuses about their policies, which just don’t add up. People can only read… Read more »
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