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- No European institution has the right to interfere in what happens in Polish schools- the Minister of Education and Science Przemysław Czarnek said in an interview with the right-wing populist weekly "Do Rzeczy", adding that his faction has nothing against tolerance or social integration.
- We are conservatives, that is, people who love freedom, and freedom implies tolerance. Christianity shows us the same thing- the Minister said. – But we also need to ask this: how do we understand tolerance? - he continued, explaining that he does not understand tolerance as the acceptance of bad deeds, demoralization, sexual deviation, and overturning the social order. - This has nothing to do with tolerance- he concluded.
A conservative counterrevolution
According to Minister Czarnek, "a school that does not teach moral values does not educate. – It’s not the stirring that makes a tea sweet, you also need sugar. What we are trying to really change here is the taste of education" he said. The weekly "Do Rzeczy" has labeled his planned reform a "conservative counterrevolution". But what does it actually entail?
First of all, the Ministry of Education wants to "increase the attractiveness of the teaching profession and change its social image". It is worth recalling that the Minister's proposal to increase the cap on employment by two hours and raise teachers’ salaries by introducing internal budget transfers and cost cuts met with a sharp reaction of all trade unions. Teachers have calculated that they will earn just a little over one zloty more per hour while having a much greater workload.
However, Minister Czarnek explains that the reform is also about de-bureaucratization. - Teachers work too much while spending relatively little time with students. This needs to change. Teachers must be freed from unnecessary duties [such as evaluation and bureaucracy] and their real teaching work needs to be increased- he said in an interview, adding that the role of the homeroom teacher should be greater as well. – A homeroom teacher should step into the role of a mentor. The idea is to actually spend time with students, talk to them, build an educational relationship - the Minister said, adding that the role of gymnasiums (grades 7-9) in the lower secondary school system did not fulfill their educational function, because by "breaking up education into short stages, there was no time at school to develop the educational function during the most formative years of a child's life".
What else does Mr Czarnek want to change as part of his conservative counter-revolution? - Reintroducing the education system from before World War II is practically impossible, but we can think of introducing at least some of its elements - he said, admitting that a team of experts at the ministry is already working on bringing back "liberal arts": rhetoric, dialectics, grammar. - Reintroducing philosophy on a larger scale, but also compulsory ethics, if not religion. We are also thinking of Latin and Greek - he pointed out. – A teaching process deprived of the elements of a moral value system is a mistake - he added.
The Minister of Education also mentioned that the projects of textbooks for teaching philosophy and ethics are already prepared. - Everything will be ready for the curriculum change - he added. He stressed that the changes introduced by his predecessor, Anna Zalewska, were going in the right direction but require some complementary work.
- If a person does not know the purpose of his or her life, can’t distinguish good from evil, then we have a problem at the level of education - he said and added: - The values that have shaped Poles for over a thousand years should be passed on: patriotism and respect for one's country.
The National Copernicus Program and "academic freedom"
The Minister also talked about the National Copernicus Program, emphasizing that it has nothing to do with the Polish Academy of Sciences, but with the 550th birth anniversary of Nicolaus Copernicus. Responding to voices of criticism following the announcement of the Program, Mr Czarnek argued that it is not meant to be an alternative to the Polish Academy of Sciences but rather "an impulse for Polish science", "support for Polish scientists in Copernican fields: astronomers, physicists, mathematicians, theologians in an international context, who function abroad but would like to serve Poland".
- The National Copernican Program is perceived as an attack on the Polish Academy of Sciences, but one has nothing to do with the other", the Minister said.
He also announced that the "Academic Freedom Package" will step into force starting next academic year. According to the bill, a university will not be able to initiate disciplinary proceedings against people who "within the limits of the law express their philosophical or religious beliefs during academic lectures". - An example of breaking the law could be statements glorifying Marxism, communism, or national socialism- Minister Czarnek emphasized, explaining that "all disciplinary proceedings are currently undertaken exclusively against Catholic or conservative academics". - I have not heard about any disciplinary proceedings resulting from someone proclaiming extreme left or left-liberal views. Left-liberal thinking often has nothing to do with freedom. It is based solely on totalitarian methods – the Minister concluded.
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