Again I have to start with the intricacies of language and Rózsa Hoffmann's choice of words in formulating her ideas on education. The Hungarian word for "public education" is "közoktatás." But Hoffmann is not satisfied with this description of the work of the schools. She is an ideologue for whom school is not just a place where teachers teach their subjects and hope that the students will retain some of the knowledge they acquire. For her school has a "nurturing" (nevelési) function where children also learn about values. What kinds of values? From the text of the bill it is obvious that they will be the ones the state finds "valuable."
In order to highlight this distinction between "education" and "nurturing," the bill that normally would have been entitled "közoktatási törvény" is called "köznevelési törvény." "Nevelni" means to "nurture." The word "köznevelés" until Hoffmann arrived on the scene to reform Hungarian education meant something else. According to Magyar Értelmező Szótár, "köznevelés" means "activities conducted in school or outside of it in the interest of raising the general and professional knowledge of youth." Well, no longer. Now each school is part of Hungary's "public nurturing" network!
I wonder how long it will take for the concept of "köznevelés" to die out. Because, let's hope, Rózsa Hoffmann and the Christian Democrats who came up with these dangerous ideas on education will one day disappear. Once the Orbán government is gone I'm sure the governmental structure will go back to normal where there will a ministry devoted to education. Surely, this ministry won't be called the "nurturing ministry."
The seventy-five-page document can be read in its entirety on the website of the Ministry of National Resources. The bill reflects the Orbán government's general tendency toward centralization. Schools will be taken out of the hands of the local governments. If the bill is accepted in its present form, the ministry will appoint the principals and 90% of the curriculum will also be centrally determined. After all, Rózsa Hoffmann is accustomed to a school system where all the children from Szentgotthárd to Debrecen and from Budapest to Szeged learned exactly the same thing from the same books. Apparently, though, even Hoffmann decided that a fixed list of textbooks might not be to the liking of either teachers or parents, but the list of possible textbooks will be shortened considerably.
Hoffmann likes to invent new concepts to which new words are attached. This gives an intellectual veneer to her rather pedestrian view of education. So, let's go back to language. "Public nurturing" is not a "szolgáltatás" but a "szolgálat." "Szolgáltatás" is "provision" while "szolgálat" is "service," but the Hungarian word is associated with "szolga" which means servant. Perhaps I'm not too far off in thinking that Rózsa Hoffmann might even have conceived of "szolgálat" in the sense of religious service.
There are other oddities in this bill that worry me. One is that schools are supposed to "produce people who are capable of independent Hungarian thinking and who are committed to the fundamental values of the national community." In another part of the document it is stated that "the goal of the public nurturing is to teach every Hungarian children to think and speak in Hungarian."
Let's start with "Hungarian thinking." Surely, Ms Hoffmann isn't simply envisaging thought processes conducted in Hungarian because if one's mother tongue is Hungarian and one lives in a Hungarian-language environment that person will think in Hungarian. No, here the bill is talking about something much more serious: they want to produce people who think in an "independent Hungarian" way. And that to me can mean only one thing. The schools will inculcate the children with a good dose of Hungarian nationalism. Moreover, the state's ideal will be the man or woman who subordinates his or her individuality to perceived national values. The community first, then the individual.
What will the schools of the "government of national cause" (a nemzeti ügyek kormánya) teach besides academic subjects? "Moral and intellectual values characterize the entirety of public nurturing. First and foremost, love, trust, honesty, work, knowledge, justice, order, freedom, equity, solidarity, and the rejection of all types of discrimination."
And finally, Hoffman promises all children the opportunity to join the ranks of "the national middle class." Don't ask me what distinguishes the national middle class from the simple middle class.
These are the most egregious ideas in the bill, at least to my mind, but I fear that it will pass without substantial revisions. After all, Viktor Orbán needs the Christian Democratic votes without which there is no two-thirds majority. And Hoffmann belongs to the Christian Democratic caucus. While Matolcsy is ruining the Hungarian economy, Hoffmann has been working hard to do the same in the field of education. Oh, pardon me! In the nurturing department!