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Weeklies on the new national curriculum

February 10th, 2020

The debate over the new national curriculum continues in the weeklies. Left-wing and liberal commentators pour scorn on the government and accuse it of brainwashing kids. Pro-government and conservative commentators, on the other hand, find the critics ideologically biased.

In Heti Világgazdaság, Árpád W. Tóta writes that the new literature curriculum (see BudaPost February 6) amounts to torture for children and will put them off reading altogether. The liberal commentator known for his firebrand opinions finds it counterproductive to include many 19th century Hungarian classics in the curriculum. Instead, more interesting books and genres, including science fiction and contemporary literature, and among others, Harry Potter books should be read in school, he recommends. He calls on the opposition to design a full alternative curriculum and use it to mobilize opinion against the government.

168 Óra’s Dóra Ónody-Molnár suggests that the government has one simple aim in mind when putting through a new school curriculum: to create ‘subservient subjects’ out of children. The left-liberal commentator accuses the government of violating the law by drafting the new curriculum without proper consultation with teachers, education experts and parents’ organizations. She agrees with experts who criticize the curriculum for not using contemporary pedagogical methods, putting nationalist ideology at its core, and demanding way too much from students.

In its regular first page editorial, Magyar Narancs claims that the proposed humanities curriculum was designed in a far-right nationalist spirit. The liberal weekly contends that the new literary canon, as well as the history narrative implied in the mandatory readings, indicate a return to the authoritarian nationalist ideology of the interwar period. The purpose of the new curriculum reflects ‘frustration and an inferiority complex’, Magyar Narancs writes, and concludes that the government’s only intention is to promote nationalist indoctrination of young Hungarians.

Magyar Nemzet’s always outspoken commentator Zsolt Bayer finds it absurd that some teachers protest against the inclusion of writers with fascist sympathies and anti-Semitic feelings. Bayer acknowledges that József Nyirő (see BudaPost through 2012) and Albert Wass, two authors included in the new curriculum had unpleasant political views. But many writers that are part of what Bayer calls the ‘liberal canon’ in Europe and Hungary also flirted with National Socialist ideology, he writes, so those who do not want to teach the works of Albert Wass and József Nyirő should also refrain from discussing any authors with similar sympathies, in addition to world famous pro-Nazi authors like Hauptmann, Hamsun, Céline and Pound.

Mandiner’s Milán Constantinovits deems the whole debate around the new national school curriculum misplaced. The conservative commentator does not find it problematic that the curriculum focuses on the Hungarians and conveys patriotic messages. Constantinovits also disagrees with suggestions that important writers with anti-Semitic ideas should be erased from the curriculum. All these are minor issues in the first place, Constantinovits suggests. He believes that in order to improve the quality of education, it would be more important to revise teaching methodology and give higher wages to teachers than to start fierce and hopeless debates on each and every author included in the curriculum.

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