Hungarian students get excellent marks from the adults

As the holidays approach  members of parliament will have a couple of months of respite from their legislative frenzy. One would think that the students would also stop their demonstrations. This morning I heard something about high school students taking a break and continuing their demonstrations only after the first of the year. But it seems that even such a short holiday from demonstrating is not going to happen.

The students are outraged because, as the afternoon headlines read, “Balog is lying.” Balogh certainly has not been straight with the students. Or, if one wants to be a tad more polite, one can say that Viktor Orbán employs communication tricks that are supposed to mislead the population. Except these students are smart. They seem to be smarter than the 1.2 million adults who still blindly follow the “dear leader.” It seems that those much maligned teachers did something right. After all, at least some of their students are articulate and surprisingly composed. I greatly admired a 17-year-old high school student who was a guest on Egyenes beszéd and who talked as if he were completely unaware that about half a million people were watching him throughout the world.

Yesterday all sorts of numbers were flying and no one knew exactly what they meant. How can it be that anyone who achieves the minimum number of points can automatically enter university with no tuition fee? The universities cannot offer an education to a practically limitless number of students. And who will pay for their education when the government is not allocating any more money for higher education than before? Surely there must be a catch.

There is. Today the Ministry of Human Resources made public the majors that will not be supported by the government. Anyone who would like to study these subjects will have to pay the full tuition fee. The list is long and includes the most popular majors: communication and media, international relations, andragogy, applied economics, human resources, economic theory, business management, commerce and marketing, finance and accounting, tourism and hotel management, international economics, and law.

Upon hearing the announcement, students gathered in the building housing the Faculty of Arts of ELTE. The students’ reaction was strongly worded. They expressed their outrage because Zoltán Balog two days ago had announced that there would be tuition-free education for all who met a prescribed academic threshold. But “he lied.” Despite earlier promises, the government reintroduced high tuition fees for a large number of students.

As a result the demonstrations are continuing. Let me share with you some of my favorite slogans from the student demonstrations.

You don't allow us to study. The country will be full of stupidos. Do you need competition? (The picture attached is Viktor Orbán as a senior in high school)

“You don’t allow us to study. The country will be full of stupidos. Do you need competition?” (The picture attached is of Viktor Orbán as a senior in high school.)

Or this one:

I do think and therefore I'm a problem

“I think and therefore I’m a problem”

And at last a wonderful 1-minute video taken by Ádám Csillag. The students keep repeating: “Viszlát Viktor, Viszlát Rózsa, mi vagyunk a jövő kulcsa!” (Bye-bye Viktor, bye-bye Rózsa, we are the key to the future!) At this point three babies held by their mothers appear in a window waving. The students immediately turn around and change the wording: “Szervusztok! Szervusztok! Ti vagytok  a jövő!” (Hi, hi, you are the future!)

Really, Fidesz and Christian Democratic politicians want to teach these kids ethics?

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18 comments

  1. I just want to do a little math here. How many spaces are we talking about for the next three-four years. THose are the students who will be affected the most. So in two years, current grade 11 and 12 students will be able to vote. Now they either have to change the course of their education or cough up the money?
    In 2012 around 35,000 students came out of university or from college. (Central Statistical Institute data on education http://www.ksh.hu/docs/hun/xftp/idoszaki/oktat/oktatas1112.pdf ) Let say 80% will have to pay from now on. THat is 28,000 students.
    Take that times three (father, mother, and even some grandparents….). 82,000 voters that will not vote for FIdesz for sure.
    How about the current elementary or grade nine and ten who were planning on entering university, those parents will not vote for Fidesz. So take that number and keep multiplying. Obviously there will be some exceptions, as Orban made many faithful party members rich, and couple of thousand Euros are peanuts to them compared to how much money would they loose if Fidesz does not make it in 2014.

  2. I am thinking how promising it is that the students also, similarly to many other people before who were the target of OV’s revolution, are trying to keep themselves away from opposition politicians, apparently any. Even if their slogans are now directed to OV’s regime more generally, the protests do not appear to have a proper addressee. OV may or may not fulfil some of their demands. And then? If it is not allowed to escalate it into a proper political conflict, where alliances have to be forged in order to achieve some of the goals, these protests will in the end produce mainly a large number of people who are “disappointed” by politics and the politicians. Even if it was them who chose an “apolitical” approach (one where you do not get dirty by forging alliances) in the first place! What has to be understood is that although it may appear to them that their demands are only too reasonable and therefore everybody MUST understand their demands, they are political – in the sense that it is their interest (and potentially not the interest of e.g. some farmers or pensioners) for which it is necessary to organise adequate support. The banners are fine and I do very much like how courageous these students are, but for these protests to be a success, cooperation with some politicians of the opposition will be necessary.

  3. Kirsten :

    IThe banners are fine and I do very much like how courageous these students are, but for these protests to be a success, cooperation with some politicians of the opposition will be necessary.

    I fully agree with you. In fact, it seems to me that Fidesz is very much afraid that such a cooperation will take place sometime in the future. Magyar Nemzet wrote an article late tonight about two MSZP politicians “making propaganda” in a school or a university. I don’t know whether it is true or not (MN is not always reliable) but it shows that they are worried about such a development.

    All democratic parties support the students and the students shouldn’t keep them away because, after all, it is clear that they are on the same side.

  4. Total government support for colleges and universities in billions of HUF and inflation:

    2009 – 186; 4.2%
    2010 – 181; 4.9%
    2011 – 170; 3.9%
    2012 – 157; 5.8%
    2013 – 126; ?

    Since the cumulative (compounded) inflation in the last 4 years was 20.16% officially,
    the current value of the 186 in 2009 is 223.5.

    In other words, the inflation-adjusted value of the support for universities has been reduced by a whopping 43.7% in the last four years.

    If we restrict ourselves to the three years since the Fidesz takeover, the inflation amounted to 15.31% and Fidesz took away 39.6% of the support of the universities.

    These are tragical numbers.

  5. Eva S. Balogh :

    Kirsten :
    IThe banners are fine and I do very much like how courageous these students are, but for these protests to be a success, cooperation with some politicians of the opposition will be necessary.

    I fully agree with you. In fact, it seems to me that Fidesz is very much afraid that such a cooperation will take place sometime in the future. Magyar Nemzet wrote an article late tonight about two MSZP politicians “making propaganda” in a school or a university. I don’t know whether it is true or not (MN is not always reliable) but it shows that they are worried about such a development.
    All democratic parties support the students and the students shouldn’t keep them away because, after all, it is clear that they are on the same side.

    I could not disagree more. I think it is extremely important that at this point the students keep their neutrality. From day one, there were accusations that it is the “left” that is heating things up, that it is the liberals that manipulate them. I think as long as the students van handle themselves (and it seems that they are handling themselves that any political movement in the last decade), they should be left alone. THis is their own fight, and we are welcome to sit back, watch, spread the news, make everyone aware of the issues, but not to interfere.
    Actually Orban already started with his comments about how the students are manipulated. If any of the students will sit down with any political party at this point, they will loose, simply because Orban will say that it is not them.
    THe only thing any political party must do and owes to the students is to come up with a plan, with a platform as far as education goes, and publish that platform, so when it comes to elections or current actions the students will understand what way they want to go. WHo knows maybe they come up with their own party, it was only a ‘bit more then two decades ago when this worked. (Although look where did that took us.)

  6. But it is the need (required by OV and apparently accepted by the public) to remain ‘neutral’ that allows OV to control the society. To accept that any cooperation between people harmed by OV is ‘left-wing conspiracy’ gives OV the power to rule even if 90 per cent of the population were against him! There is urgent need to understand how autoritarian regimes work. It is also through such methods that prevent coordinated opposition. But perhaps I am wrong and instead of just adding to those who are ‘disappointed’ by politics and who do not even register for voting (this could be interpreted as ‘non-neutrality), these students will give up their ‘neutrality’ by the next elections.

  7. @Kirsten: “But it is the need (required by OV and apparently accepted by the public) to remain ‘neutral’ that allows OV to control the society. To accept that any cooperation between people harmed by OV is ‘left-wing conspiracy’ gives OV the power to rule even if 90 per cent of the population were against him! ”

    Exactly. I think this cry from various demonstrators that they want to be free of political parties actually backfires on them. It goes back to the very deep mistrust, disillusionment and sense of betrayal Hungarian society feels when it comes to any political party. And I mean ANY political party, even newcomers, like LMP, find themselves lumped in with all other parties when it comes to general mistrust and apathy.

    Although the disillusionment is understandable, this attitude is very unhealthy and it is the biggest hindrance to ousting OV and Fidesz… Fidesz knows this and is very active in inciting and cultivating such attitudes.

  8. It is unfortunate that many of you do not give the credit to students to be able to determine what they need at this point. THey were able to achieve way more in a week than most party in years. Let them be. When the time comes, they will act accordingly. AGain, let me repeat, it is not unique in the current history of Hungary that student movements were able to rise to the top. 1956 was one, and 1989 was the second. When they become stronger, that is the time when they should sit down with various political interest groups and see what works the best. Our preaching about, what they should, how they should, why they should is just funny. No one until now was able to bring Orban on his knees, and they did it. WHat the MSZP did before and what the Fidesz does now is a joke to them. WHy should they believe.
    I am on their side, and I can only hope they will rise to the occasion to become equal partner in some sort of alternative.

  9. The point is, all of those people who are not satisfied with the current situation but who wish to remain “neutral” have some (vague, but still) idea of how the society should look like. Probably it should be less divisive and more cooperative, without the massive corruption of the past two decades etc. But this has to be understood as a political interest to be achieved by groups of people (aka parties) with political programmes – because it is an idea how the society should look like. OV is NOT neutral, he has specific ideas and policies regarding the nation, education, economy, public broadcasting, everything that he revolutionised in the last three years. How should opposition to him then be neutral?

    I understand that people wish to remain ‘neutral’ because they fear that groups within MSzP and other parties with more experience in Hungarian politics will just use them for their own interest, which is not to arrive at a less divisive society. That is not so difficult to comprehend. But if those people who wish to remain neutral between Fidesz and MSzP were able to define their own organisation, or use any of those platforms established during the past years, they could become a match for the old dinosaurs. And this has to be attempted! Remaining “neutral” in the sense of not gathering people on a (new) platform, with a political approach centred around more cooperative approaches, for me appears like a lot of very valuable effort by the students currently wasted as it might end up with new and huge disappointment and people withdrawing even more from politics.

  10. An :
    Although the disillusionment is understandable, this attitude is very unhealthy and it is the biggest hindrance to ousting OV and Fidesz… Fidesz knows this and is very active in inciting and cultivating such attitudes.

    They are not marching to oust the Orban government. It would be a mistake to assume that they all agree on the Orban government’s performance. They want real education reforms and they want to be consulted. This is the reason they don’t want parties to be involved. They don’t want the usual Hungarian spirit of disagreement to seep in.

    I believe the involvement from parties would actually help Orban because it will divide the students.

    You should look at this as a grass root movement that will deal a serious blow to Orban from a very critical layer of the society. This is the beauty of it. All kinds of views are marching together for one goal. Parties should keep away. When they succeed it will be a great damage to Orban The 5th and his government.

    Parties should mobilize their own voters and supporters instead piggybacking on other’s success.

    One more thing. This youngsters are very sensitive to receiving credit for what they do. Don’t patronize them with your “help”! Patience parents, patience …

  11. Some1 :
    No one until now was able to bring Orban on his knees, and they did it.

    some1, I do not want to play down the students’ efforts, not at all. (But I do not yet see Orban on his knees.) My worry is that because they do not ask for support of the other opposition groups, there will be some “compromise” between Fidesz and the students, small tuition fees, or a need to remain in Hungary for only 1 year or so, but nothing that changes the general direction of Fidesz policies. And it is this general direction that means that one day, education is “reformed” and made more “nationally oriented”, the next day public broadcasting, then health care etc. The less divisive society that they may have in mind when thinking “neutrally” requires that people show solidarity with the other groups affected and hence not see their own grievance as an independent issue. But really, I was just thinking about whether this is helpful for the protests or not.

  12. Mutt, “real education reform” is a political interest. Even if it sounds so natural and neutral. Apparently OV’s interest is not to provide quality education. People should be able to recognise that they share an interest that OV does NOT share. So this sentence: “All kinds of views are marching for one goal.” sounds strange to me. What kind of views are so decisive for the Hungarian students or voters that they are much more important than the shared goal of a quality education? Why is it permanently stated that the Hungarians are divided and cannot agree on (please insert here), while an obviously shared interest has to be treated as an unpolitical matter? Is politics only about issues that divide the society as a matter of life and death?

  13. This reminds me a bit of the late 60s when we students in Germany (and other countries of course …) rebelled against our reactionary political post war systems.

    Some tried a revolution – unsuccessfully, others later founded the Green party and a lot began a “march through the institutions”, but after some initial success it took a long time …

    I just hope that the Hungarian students will be faster and more efficient – of course they have new technologies like the internet and its derivatives at hand.

    What ever way they choose – I wish them (and all Hungarians!) a lot of luck!

    BTW:

    Happy Holidays for everybody – now that it seems that the Apocalypse is delayed (again …)! :D

  14. @Mutt: I see… so that’s why students are demonstrating and everybody else is sitting at home? Can you imagine what this could become if, let’s say, Milla joined in? So it is all only the students’ business, right? They will fight for their cause, succeed or fail, it’s their problem. My point is that if these separate interest groups on which OV treads on, all fight their own little battles with the Orban government, they will never win. No matter how good of a fight they put up.

  15. Kirsten :
    Is politics only about issues that divide the society as a matter of life and death?

    Well, this is Planet Hungary …

    Think about the story of the Together 2014. The goal is so clear – that is getting rid of the Orban regime, and yet it’s really sad what is happening.

    This movement, if it will produce results, will be a nail in the Orban’s regime coffin. Let’s not scare them away.

    Again the parties/movements should instead rally their own troops.

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