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Standpoint of the HTA on the new state curriculum regarding history and civics
2012 november 29. csütörtök, 10:02

1. We were delighted that government officers after several years finally accepted the HTA’s professional position and the history curriculum in the 8th and 12th grades will start from the year 1945. Therefore the periodization of the former grades should also be changed.

2. We do agree that they consider competence improvement very important in the future as well.

3. Our annual conference has confirmed the importance of teaching economics as well as civics

4. It is a great trouble though that source based education and competence improvement is very time consuming especially when students have problems with text analysis or even reading texts. It seems to us that the bill does not really count on this problem. For this reason it involves the risk of not having enough time for the prescribed competence improvement besides teaching/learning the required knowledge.

5. We have to deal with the ideological one-sidedness of the material in details. It is right that among the competences improving critical thinking has a significant role. It is diametrically opposed to the fact that educating conscious citizens, social sensitivity and respect to democratic values and institutions does not or hardly ever appear in the aims of the given historical teaching materials, rather the picture of a subject being uncritical to the nation (and its leaders) as well as the need for willingness to sacrifice. The one-sided, biased, beautifying interpretation of the Hungarian history without any criticism can be found several times. It seems that the writers have never heard about the warnings of Szekfű, Bibó, Jenő Szűcs and others on this field.

Of course history (also) serves to form and strengthen the national identity. At the same time we find harmful if it turns too nationalistic and there are several signs for this in the curricula (e.g. in the parts dealing with educational – development aims). These efforts sometimes lead to anachronism (e.g. in the periods of Turkish rule, or Rákóczi war of independence talking about national unity right before becoming a nation instead of talking about the unity of the society, the noblemen and the feudal tenants, or religions, etc. in the grades from 5 to 8).

In the teaching materials for grades 5 to 8 in the examples connected to the scale of values the national and patriotic – defensive examples are overrepresented. On the other hand there is a lack of reference to civil rights for example. The situation is the same in the secondary school materials too.

In the dualistic era they find it necessary to realize that the press became the fourth branch of power. On the contrary it is not mentioned how anachronistic the open voting was at the turn of the century, or the high financial census (6% voters) as one of the basic problems of the era, nor the social conflicts, the welfare policies, the concept of the agricultural workers on large pre-war estates, or the political opposition expressing democratic demands (e.g. the Hungarian Social Democratic Party is first mentioned after 1945). These gaps can be seen in the Horthy era as well of which only one-sidedly the positive side is suggested in the curriculum for both grades (9-12, 7-12).

Nowhere can we find the concept of universal suffrage in the teaching material. There is only one indirect, rather oblique remark in the 7-12 grades in a negative context, surprisingly originating the political extremes from this: :” Extending the political rights in many countries went hand in hand with the strengthening of demagogy, making way for the extremes to the power, which introduced totalitarian systems.”

An example for contingency: the meeting in Lakitelek appears as the only event preceding the political changes. There is no word about samizdat, the meeting in Monor, the Social Contract, etc. (in the grades 5-8). This contingency is not defensible.
The examples above can be listed long. The teaching materials should not only be extended with the missing elements but the inner proportion must be corrected too.

6. The view of history reflected in the material is much worse than old-fashioned, it’s ‘outworn’. In the historical science teaching history in a broad sense, or comprehensively has been obvious for many years. Here, on the contrary political history is over emphasised (e.g. in the Roman history the time of the kingdom and the civil war and conflicts is dealt with a very detailed way and there is almost nothing about everyday life). In the grades 7-12 very limited attention is given to the different cultures (e.g. Islamic) and the history of the nations’ neighbouring Hungary.

7. The dominance of political history does not even pay attention to the interest of the children in primary schools. Sometimes it is questionable or rather problematic that the suggested literary piece or source is suitable for the age of the students (e.g. grades 5-6 Shakespeare)

8. In certain cases the curriculum consists of controversial statements. Examples: 1. the educational – development aims of the curriculum is “to make the students understand the importance of stopping the Turkish invasion from the Hungarian and European point of view (grades 5-8), whilst the Turkish Empire’s range of expansion reached us or more precisely Vienna. 2. The date given to the reforms of Solon (594 BC) is different according to the latest researches, around 570 BC (Greek history, edited by Professor György Németh, Osiris Publishing House, Budapest 1995 page 133).

9. The problem going through the whole curriculum is the non-explicit requirement. Example: (grades 9-12) the following names are compulsory to know:  the Carolingians, Charlemagne, Emperor Justinian, Prophet Mohamed, St. Thomas of Aquino and Gutenberg. So, there are no Popes or Emperors of the Holy German Empire, nothing about the investiture wars but yet in the subject matter: “The medieval Church and the royal power in Europe.” The hundred year war is not mentioned, but there is “a planning of a historical pragmatism” (e.g. life and death of Jeanne d’Arc)”

10. It is questionable which way is more effective preparing the final exam (GCSE). It is not clear what the base of the exam is – the common minimum or the elements in the example as well.

11. Some methodological solutions are not really well-considered. Example: the curriculum divides the significant part of I.C.T. among different subjects, whilst there are a hardly any requirements in certain parts of history. For examples in grades 5-8 collecting information and acquiring of knowledge, whereas, our subject is definitely suitable for this (e.g. using references from the net, searching for reliable sites, source criticism on the net, etc.). For teaching this (as well as basic economics) history teachers must be prepared.

12. Language
Formulating the aims is linguistically much improvised (inconsistency and non-notation of the subject. etc.) Example: “Should know that the antic culture developed from the mutual effect of the Greek and the Roman culture, and see its effect on the European civilization” (can be red in the material for the 7-12 grades). Both the previous and the following sentences are formed as statements.
13. We cannot accept the extremely short time given for reports and opinions, which made it impossible to have the needed analyses, professional debates, and harmonization.

*
The Hungarian schools have to complete their local curriculum and pedagogical programs according to this material for the following years. The approved schoolbooks based on this curriculum (and suitable to the not existing new schoolbook regulations) should be published in a few months. And last but not least this regulation must be harmonized with the requirements of the final (and the entrance) exams.

Summary:
According to the above mentioned we regret to say that the bill, in spite of some positive features, is inconsistent, its professionalism in certain elements is controversial, that is why unacceptable.
The Association of Hungarian History Teachers is ready to co-operate in the future revision of the curriculum and give more factual suggestions and comments as well.

Board of the Association
Budapest, 25 October 2012

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