“The Polish law on education is perfectly good. Unfortunately, it is not adhered to. A problem is “genderist” local councils that introduce their own educational programs. Warsaw’s city government is in the vanguard.”
Barbara Nowak, history teacher and chief education officer for the Lesser Poland region, spoke to Piotr Włoczyk.
We hear that history should be dealt with by historians, and not the state. So maybe we should leave the fight for historical truth to the specialists?
One of the main tasks of state institutions is to ensure the continuity of the state. I cannot imagine the institutions “abdicating” this task to historians. Unless we sustain a patriotic narrative and defend the historical truth about our past, the nation will cease to be a nation and become just a set of individuals, with less and less to bind them together. After all, it is the Polish nation that creates the well-functioning Polish state. Apart from that, in state institutions there is no shortage of historians specializing in this matter.
One of the fundamental institutions that should engage in protecting historical truth is the school. It is not possible to make a person into an aware citizen of the state without equipping him or her with knowledge about the roots of our community. Without that, future generations will not take care of the common good, because it will be invisible to them.
It seems, however, that the left-wing educational program would exclude the shaping of such attitudes from the school curriculum. According to that vision, schools would only pass on knowledge and teach skills.
It is true that those today who support demolishing the national identities of European states argue that it is completely unnecessary to pass on patriotic values to young people. We have to understand why they do that. If we lack a sense of patriotism, which we get largely from school, although the family also plays a hugely important role, it will be easier for them to build the “modern” Europe of which they dream so much – one great EU superstate, in which citizens forget about pride in their own national identity and instead adhere to vaguely defined “European values.” If we do not want Europe to change into such a shapeless mass, a collective farm of sorts, we cannot give in to the “fashion” of eliminating patriotism from schools. The stakes here are enormous – if we abandon the field, there is a danger that the country will disintegrate.
I refer to what has been said directly by neo-Marxist ideologists, such as Antonio Gramsci. They have proposed “breeding” a new person, among other things by changing the educational programs of nurseries and schools. It is no accident that the people celebrated today by many of the European elite have stated that pre-school education should now be absolutely compulsory.
I have nothing against such institutions themselves, but we must understand that what Gramsci and his supporters wanted was the anti-patriotic indoctrination of children from this very first stage of their education. Neo-Marxists are proposing today basically the same things the Marxists demanded, but in slightly different packaging. Today, the sense of national ties, pride in our history, is to be replaced by such ideas as “equality.” Hidden beneath this beautiful-sounding concept is actually a desire to see the abnormal regarded as normal and vice versa.
We are dealing here in fact with a conflict of two civilizations. One is based on Christian foundations, which enable society to develop and which have proved themselves outstandingly throughout history. The second is pure nihilism, which has no future.
Maybe this drift toward nihilism is unavoidable, and even without outside direction our young people are increasingly unwilling to “buy” stories about traditional Poland? Maybe that is simply the order of things?
If everything was preordained, then indeed there would be no sense in resistance. But I am not a believer in historical determinism. I am a historian, and I know from looking at the history of the world that although our societies are always changing, much still depends on people’s determination, and we are not inextricably doomed to anything. People are endowed with reason and free will. Everything depends on whether we find within ourselves the strength to stop dangerous trends.
It is not that we are already condemned to a world without values, with no place either for Christianity or for national patriotism. Of course, some people do not need such values, or are even afraid of them, but the majority nevertheless still feel an attachment to a national community, are not ashamed of our history, and do not reject Christian principles. In schools we have to bring up free citizens. As a teacher with many years of experience, I know that bringing up free people is something that can be done only by people who are free themselves.
Unfortunately, today we can see people entering schools who have strongly left-wing views, and for whom freedom means something completely different. Dissoluteness is not freedom, which after all always comes with responsibility.
Are you talking about young teachers?
To a large extent this concerns young teachers, although it is also concerning that our schools, particularly in large cities, are allowing in all kinds of “activists” who fill children’s heads with harmful ideas that are not in line with the curriculum.
There has been too little attention in Poland to ethical education of teachers in colleges. At one time, teachers’ foundational principles were universal. For almost everyone entering the profession, it was clear that besides specific knowledge – historical, biological, mathematical – they were also to provide a social upbringing. This concerns not just cultured behavior, but also a sense of affiliation to the nation and state. But today?
For some young teachers, Polishness is a problem – it comes with negative connotations. The good and the beauty that we should be cultivating in our pupils is vanishing from teachers’ ethos. I also have significant doubts as to how far young teachers see an ethos in a profession that ought to be a service to people and the motherland, since I am hearing more and more that it is a job “like any other.”
We cannot go in that direction, because it will end like in some Western countries, where as a rule a teacher serves as a transmitter of neo-Marxist ideology, shaping a new person in line with the ideas presented by Yuval Harari. A person without will, “hacked” by those who exercise authority and map out the whole of his or her life path.
Personally I remain attached to the teaching ideal developed as far back as the Second Polish Republic, when teachers were responsible for their pupils to a much greater extent than now. We know, after all, how magnificently educated was the generation that had to fight for freedom in communist times.
Not so long ago we were hearing how schools would be healed, and patriotic education would be treated as an absolute priority.
It was supposed to look much better than it does. I would even say that it is now hard for a teacher educated according to the principles and values of Christian civilization to find a common language, in matters of young people’s upbringing, with colleagues who are just beginning their careers.
I am speaking the whole time about the extent of responsibility for a young person. This means not just teaching that person specific skills, but also imbuing them with values that will enable our society to survive and develop. Young teachers cannot stop at the former task… And in speaking of values, I am not thinking of the leftist ideas that are claimed today to represent tolerance. These are not values – they are anti-values.
What is at stake is what kind of state the Poland of the future will be. And whether Poland exists at all, or whether we let ourselves melt into some kind of pan-European, supranational sauce… While we still have teachers who are aware of the weight of the Polish task, there is still hope.
However, I would not wish to sound too pessimistic. We can see, after all, that revolutionaries don’t enjoy such easy victories here as in the West. I don’t know how things look across the whole country, but in Lesser Poland, the most popular with pupils are competitions of a patriotic and religious nature. We can see that this group of young people is the most active, which allows us to maintain a dose of optimism. Also, in Lesser Poland I don’t see young people rejecting en masse the heritage of Pope John Paul II. We are well aware that some of our elites have already passed sentence on the Polish pope, and are trying to win the rest of society over to their viewpoint, but they are not finding it as easy as they had hoped. For our younger generation, John Paul II is still an important figure that they want to learn about and take a lively interest in.
I also get the impression that neo-Marxists in the West have taken things too far and have come up against public resistance that they absolutely did not expect. I am thinking here about the so-called gender adjustment of children. Even people with left-wing views instinctively feel that this is doing enormous harm to members of the youngest generation.
However, when it comes to other important topics concerning our civilization, like abortion or same-sex relationships, isn’t it hard to speak of a change in attitude in Western societies?
You are right that there is no real visible change with regard to these issues. But please take note that in the West, the left has been “hijacked” by extremists who exert great pressure in the matter of children’s “transitioning.” Great hope is given by the anti-transitioning movement, composed of victims of these cruel experiments, which is growing in strength. Since this ideology is backed by a lie aimed against human nature, it must fail. And it looks as if this is happening before our very eyes.
Let’s return to education and historical truth. How can this message be promoted effectively?
Above all we must eliminate all those things that stand in contradiction to science and instead represent ideological indoctrination.
Unfortunately, it has not been possible to stop the introduction into Polish schools of programs promoted by EU and UN agencies. One of these is the European Agency for Special Needs and Inclusive Education, which implements a policy of liquidating special schools, these being described as “segregating” and “discriminatory.” This agency promotes and enforces pro-equality measures, designed among other things to eliminate a “stereotypical” approach to gender, introduce cultural genders, or assist “LGBT children.”
Almost all youth exchange programs are loaded with ideological provisions concerning humankind’s supposed crimes against the climate, the harm done by eating meat, and the need to treat homosexual pairings and others as families. Much harm is done by the systematically repeated and reinforced message to young people that everyone has the right to express their emotions or formulate opinions without the need to base them on facts, logic or reason. It is a myth that a school in Poland is absolutely autonomous. We are constantly bombarded with ideological novelties. Poland is “granted” financial help not because the EU’s decision-makers like us so much, but to make us share their views on every sphere of life.
Another problem is that we fail to provide all children with appropriate information about family life. We have a school subject called “education for family life,” but those classes are optional, and year by year fewer and fewer pupils choose to attend them, due to left-wing propaganda that presents them as a symptom of backwardness. It ought to be a compulsory subject, where every child gains knowledge about how important it is for their personal good and happiness, and also for society, to build a lasting marriage and to have children of their own.
Is there a tangible idea for how schools ought to bring up an aware citizen?
There is an idea for this; the law on education is perfectly good. Unfortunately, it is not adhered to. A problem is “genderist” local councils that introduce their own educational programs. Warsaw’s city government is in the vanguard. Schools are subject to dual authority. The local government is the managing authority, which ought to deal with organizational matters, but this is not always what happens. Genderist councils break the law and usurp the competences of the ministry and the regional education offices. There is a lack of decisive reaction from government authorities, which means that although the law is good, pupils’ heads are gradually filled with dangerous ideas that risk causing the future disintegration of our national community.
Barbara Nowak has been the chief education officer in Lesser Poland (Małopolska) since 2016. She graduated in history at the Jagiellonian University, and worked for many years as a history teacher and primary school principal. In 2010–2016 she was a Kraków city councilor, representing the Law and Justice party (PiS).
This article was first published in Polish in the Do Rzeczy weekly in September 2023.