Pupils in Polish schools will be taught that the European Union is an “unlawful entity”, says the education minister, Przemysław Czarnek. He also wants history classes to focus more on teaching “pride” in Poland’s past rather than, as before, “shame” about it.
Czarnek was asked about the government’s new “Polish Deal” programme, which was unveiled on Saturday. As well as bolstering social spending and introducing a more progressive tax system, the plan also contains elements intended to strengthen Polish identity, such as more history teaching in schools.
Speaking to Radio Wrocław, the minister said that the greater number of hours devoted to the subject would allow history to be taught right up to the 21st century.
This would include “Poland’s access to and functioning within the EU [and] the evolution of the EU from a lawful to an unlawful entity, because today it is an unlawful entity that does not adhere to its own legal framework. We see that clearly”.
Poland’s national-conservative government, led by the Law and Justice (PiS) party, has repeatedly clashed with Brussels over a range of issues, including rule of law, migration and environmental protection.
The European Commission has accused Poland of violating EU law, and has launched a number of cases against it at the European Court of Justice. However, the Polish government claims that it is being unfairly singled out and held to standards that western member states are allowed to violate.
Earlier this month, the European Court of Human Rights – a body separate from the EU – ruled that the Polish government and president had illegitimately appointed a judge to the country’s constitutional court, thereby rendering it not a “tribunal established by law”.
Discussing the direction of history teaching more broadly, Czarnek said that it is time for Poland to “finally end the pedagogy of shame”. The latter term is often used by PiS and its leader, Jarosław Kaczyński, to describe what they claim has been a disproportionate focus on negative aspects of history as a way to hinder the development of national pride.
Instead, schools should promote a “pedagogy of pride, as does every normal country in Europe and the world”, said Czarnek. While this should not involve “forgetting the ugly” parts of Poland’s past, it should focus on “showing what is beautiful in our history”.
“If Poles do not know their past, are not tied to their identity, Poland will not develop naturally,” warned Czarnek. “Many Poles see greatness somewhere abroad instead of looking at what is great in Polish history. We have given a lot to Europe. Knowledge of this should be greater so that we can feel pride that we are Poles.”
As examples of what should be taught, the minister mentioned the role that Polish troops played in liberating other countries during World War Two. They should also learn about “the struggle of the Polish underground state” both during the war and against the introduction of communism afterwards.
This, added Czarnek, should include learning about the “cursed soldiers” (żołnierze wyklęci), postwar anti-communist partisans. He claimed that their legacy has been “ruthlessly torpedoed by the left-liberal world”.
While many of the cursed soldiers – such as Witold Pilecki – are widely regarded as national heroes, others are documented as having committed war crimes against civilians, including from non-Polish ethnic groups. Yet the latter are often commemorated along with the former, including by state institutions.
Czarnek has regularly aroused controversy since his appointment as education minister last autumn. He was already known as a hardline conservative, and in particular for his attacks on what he and PiS called “LGBT ideology”, which he has likened to Nazism.
In his previous role as governor of Lublin Province, Czarnek spoke from the stage at an event organised by National Radical Camp (ONR), a far-right group descended from an antisemitic interwar organisation of the same name and which today campaigns for an “ethnically homogeneous” Poland.
Since taking up his current post, the minister has promised to fight the “dictatorship of left-liberal views” that he claims dominated the education system. He has also called for schools to use the writings of Polish Pope John Paul II to teach sexuality and business studies, and for pupils to be barred from dropping both religion and ethics classes.