Diane Ravitch in major Chicago appearance next Wednesday, November 13, at Ashland Ave. church

Best selling author Diane Ravitch will be at a major Chicago appearance on the evening of Wednesday, November 13, 2013, at 7:30 p.m. It will be at the First Free Church, 5255 N. Ashland. Diane Ravitch's latest book, "Reign of Error. The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America's Public Schools," has been drawing national attention since its publication. Recently, she appeared on The Daily Show With Jon Stewart to discuss the book.

Seats have to be reserved at

The event is co-sponsored by the Chicago Teachers Union and CReATE.Ravitch's book, which has been steadily selling since its September publication, is being picked up by a growing number of teachers for "study groups" or (in Chicago, "Book Clubs") has compiled what amounts to the indictment against the lies and half-truths of corporate school reform.


November 4, 2013 at 6:38 PM

By: Rod Estvan

If you think we have problems

If you think we have problems - go to Hungary

I doubt many readers of Substance follow the politics of a small country called Hungary, but what has happened there is stunning. I just completed another visit to Hungary. It had been years since I last visited and at that time many people were optimistic that the conversion of Hungary's command socialized economy to a market economy would bring greater opportunity especially to those with skills. I had my doubts then, but now much of that optimism in Hungary is gone.

Between 1989 and 1997 the per capita income of Hungarians declined in inflation adjusted terms by 30%, the state owned sector at the end of Communism was about 75% of the economy and by 1997 it was reduced to 21% Part of that 21% included the education sector. In the 2010 election in Hungary, the right wing Fidesz- Hungarian Civic Alliance won a two-thirds majority of seats by gaining 52% of the votes.

Viktor Orban is the leader of Fidesz and is now Prime Minister. Orban has certain perspectives on education. For example he has been quoted stating "It would be a sad story to get rid of religious belief, national identity, family and even sexual identity. That's not freedom." He said some schools in Europe believe "children should not be brought up as girls or guys", but to choose their sexual identity later. "Sometimes there is a separate changing room for those who don't know who they are," he said.

Orban envisages a small, highly educated elite, let’s say 12-15% of the adult population. The rest of the population ought to be satisfied with a high school education or even less. In Viktor Orbán’s view of the world, everybody has his place. “Mediocre” students, even if they could be admitted to university on the basis of entrance exams, shouldn’t even bother to apply because only the very best deserve a degree. That kind of thinking led the Fidesz administration to lower the compulsory school age from eighteen to sixteen.

After winning a majority of 68% of parliamentary seats, Fidesz had sufficient power to revise or replace the constitution, the party embarked on an extraordinary project of passing over 200 laws and drafting and adopting a new constitution—since followed by nearly 2000 amendments.

Fidesz has changed the electoral boundaries in its own favor. Its allies have been appointed to almost every independent institution, including the presidency, the State Prosecutor's Office, the State Audit Office and the Media Authority. The government has reduced the jurisdiction of the constitutional court and sacked scores of judges.

One of the laws changed was the Hungarian National Core Curriculum. Fidesz in its changes to the law adopted much of the education program of the extremely far right Jobbik party. The Jobbik are often referred to as neo-Nazis.

The Jobbik party stated in its education platform: "In response to the veritable pandemonium produced by the neo-liberal educational approach Jobbik will promote both streaming [i.e. tracking] and holding pupils back a year if necessary. In the syllabi for Hungarian [language], History and Music/Song sufficient emphasis will be placed on Hungarian heritage; while Religious Education (or optional Ethics) classes will be made compulsory." The Jobbik also called for the educational reform of the Roma people by creating a National Institute of Gypsy Methodology that was largely consider a re-education program for Gypsies. This the Fidesz Core Curriculum declined to adopt.

The Hungarian National Core Curriculum (NAT) that went into effect in this September and it now recommends the literary works of several anti-Semitic writers from the interwar period. One is the 20th-century Transylvanian writer Jozsef Nyiro. Nyiro, a former Catholic priest, edited far-right propaganda newspapers during World War II and was a member of the wartime Hungarian parliament following the annexation of northern Transylvania in 1940. He was an admirer of Joseph Goebbels, “Long live Adolf Hitler,” Nyiro told parliament on one occasion. Jews are “foreign to magyar lelkiseg,” he said, and liberal Jewish tradition “has infected many Hungarians and must disappear from Hungarian life.” Since the recommended readings are not part of these writers anti-Semitic diatribes Fidesz thinks they should be included in the Curriculum.

The new curriculum is a central part of what the Fidez government calls a “fundamental reform” of all elements of the country’s education sector. During my visit to Hungary I thought about many parallels between conservative education reform in Hungary and what has been happening back here in Chicago and the good old USA. Orban, Fidesz, the Jobbik party, and others on the right in Hungary are realizing the dream agenda of America's most right wing education reformers - they say and do openly what our right wingers only dream they could.

Rod Estvan (in magyar Istvaniffy)

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