Learning? Secondary to being “a good Christian and a good Hungarian”

Before I begin today’s topic, János Lázár’s most unfortunate remarks about the goal of Hungarian education–to bring up good Christians and good Hungarians, let me return to the Habsburgs.

The Orbán government’s fascination with the House of Habsburg is not a new phenomenon, but in the last few years it has become more pronounced. Moreover, relations  between certain members of the Habsburg family and the Orbán government are excellent.

mezotur2

Let’s start with Otto von Habsburg or, as he was called in Hungary, Dr. Habsburg Ottó, whose archives will be deposited in the Royal Castle in Budapest. Although he was buried in Vienna with the rest of the Habsburgs, his heart was sent to Pannonhalma. His second son Georg (Habsburg György) and his family live in Hungary. Until 2012 he was president of the Hungarian Red Cross and he currently serves as one of the “traveling ambassadors,” promoting Hungary’s bid for the 2024 Olympic Games. He and his wife have three children, and the second girl was named Ildikó. How much more Hungarian can you get?

Great was the surprise when in July 2015 the Hungarian government named Eduard von Habsburg, an Austrian TV producer and scriptwriter, Hungarian ambassador to the Vatican. Eduard didn’t know any Hungarian at the time, but “he has been studying the Hungarian language intensively for the last year,” Hungary Today reported. His father Michael (Mihály) was born in Hungary, so Eduard is a bona fide Hungarian citizen.

The latest news on the Habsburg front is that the Hungarian government commissioned a bust of the last Hungarian king, Charles/Károly IV, who, since his beatification by the Catholic Church in 2004, has been known as Blessed Charles of Austria. As you can see from the photo, Zsolt Semjén thinks very highly of Charles both as a king and as a perhaps to-be saint.

karoly-kiraly

The above was just a footnote to yesterday’s post. My main topic today is a speech János Lázár gave at the opening of the Mezőtúr Reformed College’s refurbished “Old Library.” Perhaps in his eagerness to please his hosts, he declared that “the government believes that the most that can be given to students is to raise them as good Christians and good Hungarians.” He added that “everything beyond this is debatable and questionable” since we don’t know whether the acquired knowledge will stand the test of time in the next centuries.

The reaction of liberal commentators and leaders of the teachers’ unions was undisguised outrage. One of the bloggers of gepnarancs.hu pointed out that he always suspected that “a hidden curriculum existed” and now, thanks to the overly talkative Lázár, we have learned the truth. After all, ever since 2013 the number of parochial schools has multiplied and an incredible amount of public money has ended up in the hands of the favored churches, the Catholic and the Hungarian Reformed. But now it is no longer a secret. The Orbán government wants to entrust the churches with the education of future generations of Hungarian children.

Kolozsvári Szalonna, as usual, was even more outspoken. The blogger considers Lázár’s words a calamity. “I can’t imagine a more horrible thing than for a relatively young minister in the twenty-first century to say such immensely stupid and tragically frightening things. I get really scared when a sickly dictatorship and religion cling together trying to suffocate a whole country.” The Orbán government, in his opinion, fears nothing more than independent thinkers. Until now they have stolen everything material, now “they want to divide among themselves the education of our children and our rights to be believers or not.” The author is convinced that the “marriage of state and church results in defenselessness, poverty, ignorance, later dissatisfaction, blood, and tears.” His conclusion is that if the Hungarian people allow this nuptial “we will write ourselves out of Europe and the twenty-first century as well.”

Less emotional but still hard hitting was the reaction of the two teachers’ unions. The Pedagógusok Szakszervezete (PSZ) expressed its hope that since it was János Lázár and not Zoltán Balog, the minister responsible for education, who spoke, this unacceptable statement is merely Lázár’s personal opinion because no government can force its worldview on the whole nation. “It cannot be more than a private opinion because—as is clear from all the signed and declared international treaties—the state must honor the parents’ religious and ideological convictions.” The curriculum must be free of any ideological or religious bias. PSZ expects Zoltán Balog to clarify the government’s position on the matter.

László Mendrey, head of the Pedagógusok Demokratikus Szakszervezete (PDSZ), while emphasizing that no one should question the right of the churches to maintain schools, added that “they cannot attain supremacy.” In his opinion, Lázár’s ideas are unconstitutional and in conflict with the law on public education. “Lázár doesn’t realize who the most important persons are in education. We will help him: the children … For them, the most important consideration is not to be good Christians and good patriots. Rather, the goal is to acquire knowledge that will meet the challenges of the twenty-first century.”

I’m certain that this issue will not go away quickly. I wouldn’t expect any reassurance from Zoltán Balog who is, after all, a Protestant minister. He is also woefully ignorant of what education is all about, and his past interactions with children have shown him to be incapable of any meaningful exchange with young people. Moreover, what can one expect from a man in charge of education who announced the other day that he doesn’t believe in the notion of functional illiteracy because “if someone can read he also understands the text.”

I share the concerns expressed above by teachers and political commentators because I remember only too well the days when, because of the intertwining of state and church before 1948, education was entrusted mostly to the Catholic Church. More than half of the elementary schools were Catholic parochial schools while “an overwhelming majority” of gymnasiums and teachers’ colleges were also in the hands of the Catholic Church. Creating a secular school system was long overdue by 1948. It is another matter how the Stalinist regime of Mátyás Rákosi handled the nationalization of parochial schools. Yet I would find it unacceptable to return to the pre-1948 days in the twenty-first century.

November 28, 2016
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Guest

Just to note. If Mr. Lazar’s ‘curriculum’ thrust gets leverage in Magyar society it would become evident that the type of education envisioned would be simply a locus of control rather than an unfettering of the drive for curiosity, understanding and analysis of the worlds Magyars live in. ‘Education’ arguably is to open up worlds. With that ‘Lazaration’ effect it rather will unduly restrict all Magyar vision to very narrow fields of view.

aida
Guest

The USA and France both have a Constitutional guarantee of secular states. The British have retained the dominance if the State Church but it is nothing more than symbolic because the Anglican Bishops have long since lost any contact with even the most rudimentary Christian teaching beyond acclaiming “love” as the dominant principle of a meaningful existence. The idea that any religion can play a formal or even informal part in the management of the State is a return to the Middle Ages allowing the clergy to regain the power the civilised world fought long and hard to defeat. The reconnection with the Habsburgs is a joke that is illustrative of the crazy world of modern Hungary.

Guest

Re: ‘reconnection to the Habsburgs’

Seems to fulfill a ‘back to the future’ tendency in illiberal democracies. If the realistic future is seen as a bed of fiery coals there are some who long instead for the cuddly arms of apu and anyu and putting them to bed in a very warm dunyha. ‘Sleepy time’ seems to come all the time now in a dreamy Magyarorszag which appears to long nostalgically for a somnolent past. What a time though to ‘hit the Habsburg hay…😎

bimbi
Guest

So Karl I is now revered by the Orban government, thru’ its chief genuflector and idolater “Dr.” Zsolt Demjen. That will be the same Karl I who was given the boot even by Miklos Horthy? Revisionist Fidesz clutching at straws again with the support of the clerico-fascists!

“… the emperor’s claims to Christian grace are undermined by the perceptions that he was a consummate liar, that he presided over the use of poison gas by his troops and that his chaotic leadership contributed to a fiasco when hundreds of thousands of his soldiers were taken prisoner in the war’s last days.”
“When Charles came to the throne in 1916 on the death of Emperor Franz Josef, amid war and with the Austro-Hungarian empire in its death throes, he was greeted with contempt. His chief of staff complained: “He can’t even write properly.” One of his prime ministers quipped: “He is thirty years old, looks twenty, and thinks like a ten-year-old.””
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2004/jan/19/catholicism.religion

webber
Guest

“Should he ever make the grade for canonisation, suggested the Austrian weekly Profil, he should be nominated as the patron saint of losers.”
Perfect for Fidesz!

Penny Sue Oswalt
Guest

Where are the descendants of King Stephen? There has got to be some floating around alive. Would you all consider them instead of the Hapsburgs?

Guest

“Where are the descendants of King Stephen?”

There are about 10 million people who think they are descendants of King Stephen.

webber
Guest

Neither of Stephen’s sons had children.

Penny Sue Oswalt
Guest

BRING BACK THE FIRST KING OF HUNGARY! WHERE IS HIS HONOR? AND WHY ARE WE RECIGNIZING THE HAPSBURGS WHO INVADED HUNGARY AND HAVE MANAGED TO AQUIRE HAlF OF HUNGARY WHICH IS NOW AUSTRIA?YOU GOTTO EXPLAIN YOURSELVES PLEASE?????

webber
Guest

There are no Arpads left. The male line died out in 1301. Hungary had salic law, meaning only boys could become kings.
Half of Hungary Hungary is not Austria. Austria got only Burgenland from Hungary – a rather small bit.
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Guest

A male line is a small subset of descendants.

The Habsburg male line died out in 1740. Later Habsburgs were descendants.

webber
Guest

True, and adopted children could be accepted as king.
But as to the Habsburgs, they did not have Salic law.
Incidentally, Maria Teresa was proclaimed King of Hungary – not Queen! Hungary could not, legally, be ruled by a queen, so she was made king.
Hungarians were playing legal tricks even then.

Guest

My wife’s immediate reaction:

Of course it’s good for a mafia government if the people are kept stupid and ignorant!

You don’t need a degree to raise mangalica pigs …

These guys are unbelievable!

petofi
Guest

Biblically, when the Hungarians arrived at Noah’s ark and asked to board the reply was simple:
“We have enough pigs already!”

Orionpax
Guest

Ouch burn. PetofI. Hungarian fidesz trolls doesn’t understand that Hungary is third rate power with first rate ego. The Soviet should have divided Hungary into four country after 1956.

Guest

Good Christians kill Muslims and vice versa.

Istvan
Guest
János Lázár in promoting Christian values and teaching finds himself in a comparable position to the US Secretary of Education designate Betsy DeVos. Ms. DeVos is a billionaire philanthropist with deep ties to the Christian Reformed community in Michigan, she is a member and an elder at the large nondenominational Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids. Her husband Dick DeVos, a former candidate for governor of Michigan who was quoted as saying this: “I would like to see the ideas of intelligent design ( a code for the biblical theory of creation)— that many scientists are now suggesting is a very viable alternative theory — that that theory and others that would be considered credible would expose our students to more ideas, not less.” Aida is correct about our (US) doctrine of separation of Church and State, but when religion is coded with designations like “intelligent design” or “morality” is it really a violation? I suspect a new conservative Supreme Court majority appointed by Trump and the Republicans over the next four years will find that is not a violation. Since the so called National Avowal in the Basic Law of Hungary makes specific reference to Christianity Lázár has… Read more »
webber
Guest
OT – but related to the expected increase in salaries the government media is constantly talking about: In Hungary, the price of bread is set to rise by 30% on Jan. 1. The price of cigarettes will be increased drastically in steps, with the first increase in the coming month. The price of a liter of gasoline will go up by 3 forints tomorrow. In Hungary, he price of gasoline and cigarettes is effectively set by government, because taxes make up the largest proportion of those prices. The price of bread will rise because wages paid to bakers must be drastically raised, because so many bakers have moved abroad for better wages there. So, wages will go up, but prices will also go up, and in real terms it is entirely possible that there will be a further denigration of salaries. For example: if you are paid 200,000 forints and your expenses come to 199,000 forints, you will be happy to hear that your new salary will be 220,000 forints until you discover that your expenses have risen to 219,500 forints. Before the raise you will have 1,000 forints left at the end of the month for entertainment. After the… Read more »
Water Willy
Guest
According to LMP’s internal polls only about half of Hungarians want a change in the government. About the same amount of people wants to march forward as we have been doing. And this is in the middle of the election cycle when governments are at their most unpopular. The popular decisions will only start in mid-2017. Although among the undecideds the ratio of wanting change is 2:1 to those who would keep the government (the latter must be a strange group, not knowing which party to vote for but wanting to keep Orban), a third of the undecided doesn’t know whether they want a change or not. People are pretty OK with their lives. Those who are in Hungary (not among the 6-700.000 emigrants) love their lives. They love that they have a strong leader who is – the media tells them – respected and feared in Europe and who has been vindicated by betting on President Trump. The art of politics is about the management of expectations. Hungarians don’t expect much so they are happy what they are having. The Commies delivered a Bokros package and increased gas prices, who would want that when Orban cut the prices and… Read more »
webber
Guest

And just where are these polls? And who in their right mind believes that LMP is anything but a front for Fidesz?

Guest

This is nonsense!

I don’t have to quote the polls hat say that Hungarians a very unhappy (just go to portfolio or BBJ to see them) – it’s enough to talk to my neighbours who are complaining all the time about the lack of money.

Sure, there are some happy people – like the owners of tobacco shops or other Fidesz mafia members, but the vast majority?

http://www.portfolio.hu/en/economy/hungary_is_on_the_wrong_track_according_to_huge_majority_survey.32149.html

Observer
Guest

Pretty silly for a troll here. Lift up your act in style at least. Don’t bother with the facts, we know them.

Member

Prices for gas were noticeably less under Gyurcsány than under Orbán. Orbán raised prices considerably (mostly due to the exchange rate shenanigans), and then lessened them moderately.

Is there a source for LMP’s poll? Or do you have the original numbers?

webber
Guest

The troll made LMP’s poll up, obviously.

ferenc
Guest

Wonder if this governments ideas will improve the poor results of the education system, here are some surveys from the 2016 OECD report:
*student performance (2012, PISA):
http://www.keepeek.com/Digital-Asset-Management/oecd/economics/oecd-economic-surveys-hungary-2016_eco_surveys-hun-2016-en#page113
*teachers wages (2015, OECD):
http://www.keepeek.com/Digital-Asset-Management/oecd/economics/oecd-economic-surveys-hungary-2016_eco_surveys-hun-2016-en#page114

And now that we are with this report, here some main economic figures (to balance governments happy news items about the report):
*GDP 2000-15 slowest growth in regio (2016, OECD):
http://www.keepeek.com/Digital-Asset-Management/oecd/economics/oecd-economic-surveys-hungary-2016_eco_surveys-hun-2016-en#page16
*income level lowest in OECD-Europe (2014, Worldbank):
http://www.keepeek.com/Digital-Asset-Management/oecd/economics/oecd-economic-surveys-hungary-2016_eco_surveys-hun-2016-en#page17

webber
Guest

Call me paranoid, but I suspect they have come up with a new wheeze to squeeze money out of education – give it to the churches, then pull all state funding, and use the money for more fun projects, such as renovating the palace Orban’s daughter recently bought:
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Observer
Guest

What’s the fuss about Lazar’s remark – that’s been thee trend since 2011:
Less years in school
Less civic subjects
Less students in uni
Less choice of courses
Less self gov rights +
state appointed rectors and chancellors
Less innovation and R&D
LESS MONEY.

Add the atavistic visions of L.Paragh and Orban re “production of real things”, leess sickle , hammer and smokestacks.

For the very simple: it is not “education” system any more, but a “nevelési” one.

pappp
Guest

Interesting tidbit. Hat tip to Marton Bede.

Putin’s RT (Russia Today) international propaganda TV channel costs less than Orban’s Hungarian State TV and Radio (propaganda channels).

17bn Rubels which is about 75bn forints vs. 77.7bn.

(Although on paper the Hungarian TV has several channels but RT too has different language mutations too and most of Hungarian state media channels only do programming without own production of content. So the comparison is realistic.)

Observer
Guest

Unbelievable! Tnx.

Since most of the MTV contents are outsourced I guess 50% overpricing, ie stealing would be expected.
After all the Orban regime doubled the state media budget from 44 to 80+ billion, while cutting staff by half.

Ratings dropped at all time low too.
What an “achievement”!

Istvan
Guest

Nepszava has a depressing article today on a so called parliamentary debate on public education where very few members of the Hungarian Parliament even bothered to show up. There is a photo of the chamber showing it near empty. Apparently gone are the days when everyone was worked up over tanitanek or various work stoppages in schools. See http://nepszava.hu/cikk/1113377-kozoktatasrol-vitaztak-de-minek

Member

Most parliaments in the world, at most times, are mostly empty. There is a low number of people who must sit there for a quorum. But the rest of the time, rightly or wrongly, the politicians are in their offices, planning, meeting, writing speeches, or whatever. In parliaments where they are allowed to use a computer in the chamber, mostly they are on Facebook or browsing newspapers (you can see from some of the unfortunate camera angles). The times when the parliaments are full are for setpieces like State of the Union addresses or Question Time in the British Parliament. Or for a media stunt.

Imagine, the education debate, where each person can speak for 20 minutes, and say there are 5 speakers from each side…. that can be 3 hours of people saying the same stuff over and over again, sitting in an uncomfortable seat. Most of the time the politicians sit in their offices, listen to the debate on radio or TV, and come down to deliver the speech, and then go back to their office.

Member
Lázár’s comments are a massive distraction! Like so much of their media strategy, they throw these comments out there to dominate the news coverage. “Hey everyone, look over there!” And we look : they know lots of people will jump up and down, and they also know that the average (or possible) Fidesz voters in the countryside don’t think there is anything wrong with their kids being raised as Christians, even if they don’t or can’t actually make it to church themselves. And when they see the liberals and media commentators getting all worked up over a little remark, these forgotten voters are pushed just a little bit to defend Lázár, because it was a fairly innocuous remark. We all know what Fidesz’ education policy is: it isn’t a conspiracy, it is a monumental omnishambles. The only conspiracy is what everyone knows: they want to offload the schools on to the churches to save money, and as a bonus, unofficially to keep segregation. And while we and liberal parts of the Hungarian media are talking about some stupid sentence in Mezőtúr…. we are not talking about the Orbáns close links with terrorist financiers. Or selling citizenship to Chinese people. Fidesz… Read more »
Guest

As Daniel Boorstin, American historian has said – “Education is learning what you didn’t even know you didn’t know.”

By turning Hungarian schools into centres of governmental brainwashing, they will no longer be places of learning, but centres of indoctrination.

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