Why Hungary’s state-sponsored schoolbooks have teachers worried
2019 február 1. péntek, 20:27
(…) School books are created in the state-run Education Research and Development Center (OFI) by various contributing experts, explained Ildiko Repárszky, a history teacher and author of some of the earlier versions.These days, the books don’t bear the name of a single author on the cover. Instead, a board of editors reportedly handles the texts from contributors “completely freely, as raw material, reshaping them at will,” said Repárszky. (…)
In his small office in central Budapest, chairman of Hungary’s Association of History Teachers, Laszlo Miklosi, opens a history book for 14 and 15-year-olds covered in Post-it notes.He turns to the page on multiculturalism and points to a speech Orban gave to the European Parliament in Strasbourg in May 2015 that laid out Hungary’s position on migrants.In the speech, the Prime Minister said Hungarians considered it a value that their country was homogenous in terms of its “culture,” “traits” and “way of thinking.” “This is just everyday politics,” said Miklosi, adding “It doesn’t say anything about the actual reasons for existing problems of migration — instead it’s what the current prime minister thinks about it.”
Orban’s defiant relationship with the European Union also plays out in a cartoon showing Germany as a giant sow feeding piglets representing Greece, Spain, Belgium and Portugal. Standing apart from the rest and happily munching its own grass, is the Hungary piglet.In the same geography book under the chapter on “Population Decline and Migration,” another cartoon shows a Hungarian boy and girl with the caption: “The number of those who think Hungary is the best place to live has significantly increased.”The illustration includes statistics like “67% of young people can only imagine their future in this country.” And “every 4th young person lives in a marriage or a permanent relationship and 68% of those who don’t, would like to,” with no clear source for the findings.
The image “enlarges the patriotic feelings of young people in Hungary, their contentedness with their country, their willingness to get married and start a family — while also downplaying their willingness to move abroad,” said Repárszky, who is also part of the Association of History Teachers, which has around 400 members.Government spokesman Kovacs dismissed the teachers’ concerns as a “political opinion,” adding that the government always welcomed “criticism, contribution, observations and comments” from “professional organizations.”
‘Migrant’ and ‘Soros’ are schoolyard taunts
Miklosi, who has reviewed school textbooks for more than 30 years, believes Orban’s anti-migrant rhetoric has filtered down to classrooms and playgrounds.”‘Migrant’ has become a swear word for many people, including many children,” he said.Should a teacher say the words “Jewish” or “gypsy” or “Slovak” they are often met with students “giggling and nudging each other” and the teacher has to “actively fight for space to discuss these categories in a neutral way,” Miklosi added.
Miklosi has campaigned for changes to the 2016 Year Eight History book, and some edits — such as a decription of right and left-wing politics — have since been made, while many other criticisms remain.It’s a view shared by English teacher Juli Karolyi, who said for some students the words “migrant” and “Soros” had become “swear words used in schoolyards and playground conflicts.”But she added that children’s views were “mostly decided in the home” rather than in the pages of textbooks. “If the parents fall for the government propaganda, the kids will follow suit — especially the younger ones,” she said.A few blocks from Miklosi’s inner-city office, 18-year-old student Akos Blaskovics has just finished a morning history class at his high school, Fazekas Mihály Gimnázium. The quietly-spoken teenager told CNN that he “hasn’t really seen a difference in the messages of textbooks in recent years.”But he did think the government has tried to “make people focus on the question of migrants,” rather than “more important things like education, healthcare and social problems.”
Five textbook publishers, 123 trials
In a small village 30 minutes’ drive east of Budapest, publisher András Romankovics’ home office is packed with bookshelf after bookshelf of rainbow-colored spines arranged by decade.The former teacher and his wife started publishing school textbooks in 1978, and he estimates around 10 million copies have been printed over the years.Hungarian school textbook licenses must be renewed every five years. Romankovics is one of five independent textbook publishers who are suing the government after it rejected their requests to extend their licenses, which were due to expire at the end of 2018.
The court case relates to 123 books in total — meaning 123 separate trials for each book. Needless to say it’s a lengthy process, and since the trials began in September, around 20 books have been granted permission to extend their licenses, said Romankovics.Meanwhile the licenses of state-sponsored textbooks were extended, he said.Kovacs, the government spokesman, would not comment on why the government had rejected the independent textbook publishers’ license requests, saying only that it was an “ongoing case” and “going through a higher level of decision-making.”But Romankovics, who is also chair of the National Textbook Association, which represents 20 publishers, warned that without a true diversity of books, children’s education would suffer. (…)