Secular Hungary

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Kissing the ring

While the pope, XVI. Benedict is busy touring Britain this week, the week before he received the Hungarian president, Pál Schmitt, whom elderly non-Hungarians may know from his carreer in fencing a couple of dacades ago. Later, at the beginning of the 1980s, he made a career in sports diplomacy (being the head of the Hungarian Olympic Committee (MOB) also at the time when the committee decided to boycott the Olympic Games in 1984), and in hotellerie: he was the managing director of the Hotel Astoria in Budapest. About 10 years ago, he became a face of Fidesz, and they -- having won 2/3s of the seats in parliament by receving 53% of the votes --  made him president (which is more or less a representative function, and even Schmitt's critics agree that he is a handsome clothes hanger).
Anyway, he's visited the pope on September 10th, and the two of them had a look at various European countries' constitutions, found out that in 8 of them the church is explicitly included, and Schmitt 'proudly announced ' (these were his words) that 'if everything goes well, Hungary will become the ninth'. They also agreed on the importance of Hungarian minorities having priests speaking Hungarian, and according to Schmitt, the pope said he is well aware of this problem. Other topics were the financing of Hungarian church schools, and the EU presidency of Hungary starting next January. According to Schmitt, the pope even mentioned how much he appreciated that the Remonstrances of Saint Stephen, king of Hungary to his son, Imre (who was later canonised, as his father was) are availabe on the president's homepage.
The Vatican's Osservatore Romano also mentioned the visit, but in much less detail.

As good catholic, the president of course kissed the pope's ring:

Anomymous experts

The highest official for education, secretary of state Rózsa Hoffmann (who became famous for starting her job with cancelling the newly intorduced prescription that kindergarden should not reinforce stereotypes, including gender stereotypes), intends to make a new law on education and higher education. To this aim, she organised a secret experts meeting in August, and the group of experts has already prepared a blueprint for the main issues - a 43-pager for primary and secondary education, while the tertiary sector got 9 pages. FigyelőNet got a copy of it.
While there are positive suggestions such as improving teacher training, increasing the time children have to psent at school, and having more sports lessons, there are some disputable ideas, such as the one saying preference should be given to other languages than English - instead of English, not along with it (let's be realistic: nowadays, if you have a BA, you won't get a job with at least some English).
While according to the blueprints, the direct state subventions for schools maintained by the local governments are to be increased to 90% of the total cost, these subsidies will amount to 100% in the case of faith schools.
The members of the experts' group are held secret (accodring to the ministry, the membes do not receive any money, and some of them don't want to have their names disclosed) by the ministry, but according to FigyelőNet 'compared to the fact that faiths schools tot up to about seven percent of the sector, faiths schools are -- to put it mildy - overrepresented in the shaping of the strategy dealing with the hole system.' The somwhat piqant part is that though the minister is a member of both Fidesz and KDNP, Fidesz's experts are not involved in the preparation. Or in other words: a party that would get around 1% of the votes if they had to run independently of Fidesz is shaping edcuation accodring to their private agenda.

Monday, 6 September 2010

Verstehen Sie Deutsch?

Eine ziemlich detaillierte Zusammenfassung der ersten 100 Tage im Amt von Viktor Orbán:
A detailed account on Viktor Orbán's first 100 days as prime minister - in German:

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Morals at the protestant university

Hungary has about 80 universities and colleges. Many of them are of course minor province institutions, including a lot of theological schools caring to the needs of one particular denomination for pastors  (needless to say that they receive their funds from the Hungarian state, too). Not so Károli Gáspár University of the Reformed Church (KRE), which, together with Pázmány Péter Catholic University is an institution with scientific ambitions, and has not only a theologial faculty, but also one for humanities and one for law. Until now, it also had three PhD schools. One of them, the law school, has now been closed down by the Accreditation Committee for continuos non-compliance with basic academic standards. One of these says that in order to run a PhD school, an institution needs to have a certain number of specialists in the field who already have students awarded a PhD degree, and not only the now closed down PhD school, but also the PhD school in literary history is unable to meet this criterion.
However, according to the weekly HVG, the latter seems to have also committed fraud.