Introducing patriotic physical education classes

Back to education of sorts. Of sorts because the Orbán government, like all authoritarian regimes, looks upon education as a vehicle for its political agenda. It has been constantly fiddling with education ever since 2010, trying to adapt it to its own ideas and needs. Acquiring knowledge is taking a back seat to nationalistic indoctrination. As the latest test results attest, these “improvements” produced lower scores in all categories–math, science, and verbal skills. Instead of beefing up academic skills appropriate to the modern age, the government added subjects such as religious education (or ethics), and it increased the number of physical education classes. Of course, rote learning is still the pedagogical method of choice. As a result, children spend an inordinate number of hours in the classroom with less and less to show for it.

The Orbán government’s real aim is to use the school system for the infusion of values that the political leadership deems essential. Among these values, perhaps the most important is nationalistic patriotism, which they think young Hungarians lack. Therefore, the Orbán government’s new curriculum places special emphasis on pride in Hungarian cultural and scientific achievements and, in general, on historical and folk traditions. As the ministry of human resources put it, teachers of history and literature are supposed to instill national pride in their pupils.

Over the past seven years the government’s educational “experts” floated several ideas that were supposed to arouse students’ interest in what the Orbán government considers to be Hungarian specialties. Examples were the introduction of horseback riding and the compulsory daily singing of folk songs in schools. Luckily, the crazy idea of daily singing was soon abandoned.

Here I would like to focus on one notion that was put into practice: five gym classes a week instead of the earlier three. In theory, this might have been a good idea, but as usual it was introduced without due preparation and there are still many students who must do their exercises in the corridors instead of a gym due to lack of space. I was also very suspicious about the real reason for this great emphasis on physical education. We all know that a daily exercise program is good for us, and everywhere in the world only a small percentage of children and adults are physically active. Hungary is no exception. So, more gym classes could be a step in the right direction. Still, I was worried from the beginning that the greater emphasis on gym was not for the sole benefit of physical well-being but that the powers-that-be had a hidden agenda. Soon enough there were signs that my fears were justified.

The first sign that the government was thinking about general military training was Viktor Orbán’s surprising announcement that those men who received military training during the Kádár era and afterward, until it was abolished in 2004, gained immeasurably from the experience. The announcement was surprising because Orbán loathed his year in the military between high school and law school. According to his own admission, this was the time when he came to hate the regime and decided to turn against it. But today he seems to be convinced that Hungary must be able to defend itself and therefore must have a strong army. I believe that if the idea of conscription weren’t so unpopular, he wouldn’t mind reinstating compulsory military service. But since this is not possible politically, at least at the moment, he would like to have a strong reserve force.

István Simicskó, minister of defense, has been for the longest time a promoter of the idea of a “home army.” A year ago there was a lot of talk about building one, but it seems that the army found it difficult to convince men and women to enlist. Once that failed, Simicskó floated the idea of establishing shooting galleries in every “járás,” an administrative unit smaller than a county. Today not much can be heard about this idea either. Instead, at the beginning of June RTL Klub reported that the Klebelsberg Center (KLIK), which oversees Hungary’s educational system, inquired from school principals about the feasibility of establishing shooting galleries on school premises. A day later Magyar Nemzet learned that KLIK is also interested in the practicality of introducing martial arts. KLIK wanted to know what kinds of martial arts they teach now, because as of May students can replace gym classes not just with football but also with some kind of martial art. I should add that Simicskó is a practitioner of Wing Chun, a traditional Chinese martial art specializing in close range combat. Simicskó achieved the 4th master level.

The word is now out that by the end of this year schools will have to change the curriculum of gym classes to reflect “a program of patriotism and national defense.” Critics of the Orbán government’s educational policies are baffled and somewhat worried about these plans because of the coupling of patriotism/nationalism and the defense of the homeland. As it is, Hungarian education is supposed to instill an admiration for those who over the years have fought against “foreign oppression.” One only wishes the curriculum placed as much emphasis on the fight against domestic oppressors and the love of individual freedom.

It looks as if it is never too early to start patriotic/nationalistic indoctrination. According to the description of the project, it will begin when children enter kindergarten at the age of three. It is still not clear when students will have to start learning the rudiment of “the basics of military training.”

The plan strongly resembles the “levente movement,” which was introduced in 1921 and came to an end in 1945. It was the primary organization for pre-military training in the Horthy era. According to the Treaty of Trianon, Hungary could maintain only a very small army, so the introduction of the levente movement helped to circumvent the military restrictions imposed on the country. Every male between the ages of 12 and 21 who no longer attended school had to join a local levente group, where he was forced for 8-9 months a year to take physical education classes for three hours a week. So, it’s no wonder that some educational experts are worried that the patriotic physical education classes signal plans to reintroduce conscription sometime in the future.

Members of the levente movement practicing the shot put, 1928

But the very idea of “teaching” patriotism/nationalism to youngsters is frightening by itself. Often the distinction between patriotism and nationalism is blurred. It’s enough to take a look at the dictionary definitions of the two terms. Patriotism is “love and devotion to one’s country” while nationalism is “devotion, especially excessive or undiscriminating devotion to the interests or culture of a particular nation state.” But what is excessive? The second meaning of nationalism is even more telling. Nationalism is “the belief that nations will benefit from acting independently rather than collectively, emphasizing national rather than international goals,” which is certainly true of the “patriotic” aspirations of the Orbán government.

In brief, the present regime is introducing the teaching of blatant nationalism into the school curriculum. This highly questionable project is being financed to the tune of 318 million forints by, I’m sorry to say, the European Union. It is one of the many paradoxes that most of us find intolerable. Here is the European Union, which is supposed to stand for international cooperation and ever closer integration at the expense of nationalistic egotism, and that organization finances Viktor Orbán’s latest plans to bring up a generation of Hungarians antagonistic to the very ideas the European Union stands for.

August 6, 2017
Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
bimbi
Guest

I have a pessimistic view of this latest twist in the Orbán government’s plans towards control of Hungarian school children through “patriotic/nationalistic” education, especially when considered alongside other plans for militarization of the citizenry as detailed in the blog above. It seems to me that Orbán and his criminal gang are increasingly concerned about insurrection against his mafia state and are taking careful preventive steps – one thinks of the militarization of Orbán’s personal bodyguard (TEK), the establishment of the well-armed force under Kovér’s control for defending parliament and Matolcsy’s MNB army, provided with God knows how many million bullets! The next logical step is the establishment of loyal armed cells across the country, via appropriate school “education” to deal with any perceived threat against the regime. Publicity is part of the plan. This is called long-term preventive planning. That it should be funded by the EU is no surprise. After all, it is the regime which submits proposals for use of EU funding. It is not difficult to “dress up” such a proposal. This is all an insurance programme to guarantee that the criminal theft and continuity of the regime should proceed unhindered.

Hungary has problems.

wrfree
Guest

Re: physical fitness and patriotic and nationalistic aspirations

An allusion to another time and place decades ago cannot be removed from perception. Shades of ‘we follow you’ perhaps will come in answer to the call to be in great shape.

Member

OT, from yesterday:

Gyorgy Rasko explains why he supports Momentum in a Facebook post. It’s public.

https://www.facebook.com/raskogeorge/posts/853602914813162

Istvan
Guest
Well Orban is not alone in taking a position in favor of compulsory military service. Emmanuel Macron said during his campaign he wants to renew short-duration military service for the nation’s youth. He said: “I want every French youth to have the chance to experience, even briefly, military life. This is a major project for society, one of citizenship, which is intended to make our democracy more united and increase our collective resilience.” As Eva is aware here in the USA we have a Junior Reserved Officers Training Corp program in numerous high schools, in Eva’s home State of Connecticut there are programs at Danbury High School, Naugatuck High School, Norwalk High School, Bloomfield High School, Hillhouse High School (in New Haven), New Britain High School, Westhill High School (in Stamford), Brien McMahon High School (in Norwalk), and at Wilby High School (in Waterbury). The US Dept of Defense’s budget for JROTC programs nationally is about $215 million a year. There has been an ongoing debate on compulsory military service within the US Army for many years now. But, according to a 2011 Pew survey, recent US veterans oppose a draft with more than eight-in-ten post-9/11 veterans and 74% of… Read more »
Observer
Guest

It is Fascism, guys, and these are well known attributes. The level however is very low, i.e. Felcsut level.

Instead of silly lurches these dummies should teach the Hun children to swim – following a spate of drownings a TV report mentioned that only 35% of Hungarians can swim. I’m not sure i remember correctly the figure, but I remember I was shocked.

Ivan
Guest

Children’s introduction to music via daily singing of folk songs is not necessarily crazy and has been successfully adopted in many countries: see e.g. http://www.britishkodalyacademy.org/kodaly_approach.htm. Like any of the arts or humanities (history!) as taught in schools, the practice is of course susceptible to poisoning by a crazy regime.

Guest

The German magazine SPIEGEL has a scathing report again – people will probably be unsure whether to cry or laugh at these activitis, they sound like a parody …
http://www.spiegel.de/lebenundlernen/schule/ungarn-viktor-orban-will-schulunterricht-militarisieren-a-1161875.html
The article starts with reminding us that young Orbán was a rebel against those things which he now advances for others …
Drill und Gehorsam nicht ausstehen, Militarismus und staatlich verordneter Patriotismus

vzir
Guest

Well, us Romanians have a saying: “Noi muncim, nu gândim.”, meaning that we labor, we don’t think.

petofi
Guest

@vzir

For Hungarians, the saying would be:

“We think little; and work less.”

wpDiscuz