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Parents Against Propaganda: Hungary’s Example

Commentary

While the recent victory of governor-elect Glenn Youngkin in Virginia is a significant setback to those who advocate the introduction of critical race theory and other leftist curricula in schools, it’s by no means a definitive defeat of these forces. Youngkin only won by 65,000 votes, and the districts that had the most notable cases of radicalized school boards, such as my hometown in Loudoun County, still voted for the candidate who believed parents shouldn’t have a say in schools.

Millions of children in the United States remain enrolled in politicized education, with no realistic chance of a change in state or local administration. Even if parents choose to homeschool their children, the current career landscape often necessitates sending children to college, an institution that has long been dominated by left-leaning academia. Parents in solidly conservative states likewise face this quandary as most governors have yet to go after and dismantle the radical academia present in their own state universities. Thus, raising children in this country often means navigating a myriad of woke-dominated educational institutions.

While this might seem like a hopeless predicament for those raising children, parents must realize that despite the extensive levels of political pressure their children may face in school, college, and society, parents are the most powerful force in their children’s rearing.

We know this, because just 65 years ago, parents in Hungary fostered a generation that would rise against leftist totalitarianism, an event that shook the Soviet Union.
People march in the streets of Budapest during the Hungarian uprising against communism in 1956. (Nagy Gyula/Fortepan/CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

The 1956 Revolution, where Hungarians rose en masse against their Soviet-puppet government, began on Oct. 23, when large crowds, mainly led by college students, began demonstrating throughout Hungary demanding reform. Although the revolutionaries initially succeeded in achieving concessions from the Soviets, such as the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Budapest and a reinstatement of a reformist prime minister, the Soviets quickly reneged on their initial gestures and returned a few days later to squash the uprising in Budapest and other major Hungarian towns. On Nov. 4, the Soviet Army entered Budapest and engaged in intense street fighting with partisans and members of the Hungarian Army. Despite fierce resistance, the Soviets crushed the Revolution and killed more than 2,000 Hungarians. In the aftermath of this brutal crackdown, out of a country with fewer than 10 million people more than 200,000 Hungarians fled to the West and tens of thousands of them found a new home in America.

A System of Indoctrination

While this tale might seem like a tragic victory of communism over liberty, the Revolution revealed a colossal failure of communism: There are obvious limits to the widespread and extensive system of socialist indoctrination of the youth.

One can understand older Hungarians revolting against the communists. The regime in 1956 was only around 10 years old, and anyone older than 30 could remember what life in freedom was really like. However, a large percentage of those who revolted and who fought in the streets were young adults, some mere teenagers. Many of them were exclusively educated under the communist regime, so it’s no small feat that these young men and women had not been successfully indoctrinated by the Soviet-installed education system.

One of the first actions the communist regime carried out after seizing power in the late 1940s was to establish an expansive and indoctrinating education system. They first nationalized Hungary’s schools, ending the country’s longstanding system of church-run education, and established a curriculum heavily based on the Soviet Union’s education system. This system, dedicated to creating the perfect “Communist Man,” began as early as learning the ABCs.

“All of the textbooks used by first graders in grammar school had political connotations, even in learning the ABC’s, the letters were connected with politics,” stated a 1955 CIA report.

As students moved through the levels, this propaganda and indoctrination would only intensify. Students would be forced to attend lectures on Marxism and Leninism, chant songs devoid of religious content and praising communist leaders, observe new holidays instituted by the Marxist regime, and forget about Christian holidays.

This indoctrination was not limited to school either; the communists pressured students into joining their own version of Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts called the Pioneers where “scout leaders” would preach further communist propaganda and build their own mini-version of socialist utopia. As one student under the system put it, “the authorities deprived the young people of their free time—that is, the time that they could live their own individual lives.” Students were thus subjected to propaganda material throughout their daily routine in virtually all aspect of their lives.

The university system only intensified the level of propaganda, with every teacher, no matter what subject, having the primary role of teaching Marxism. Students were subjected to hour-long classes on the philosophical underpinnings of communism and expected to actively participate. Silence would be taken as a sign of dissent and could lead to suspicion of their disloyalty. A ruthless quota system was enforced where previous “privileged” classes, such as the children of aristocrats and the bourgeois and the “clerical class,” were often denied, along with any children of politically unreliable characters. Children of the newly created working-class families constituted most students accepted into Hungary’s university system.

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