Czech president slams spy chief, education minister for discussing “Soviet” bias in school curriculum

18-01-2019

President Miloš Zeman has lashed out at the education minister for having met the director of the counter-intelligence service BIS to discuss the agency’s warning that a “Soviet narrative” still dominates the teaching of modern history in Czech schools.

Miloš Zeman, photo: Khalil Baalbaki / Czech RadioMiloš Zeman, photo: Khalil Baalbaki / Czech Radio In recent weeks, President Zeman has criticised both the counter-intelligence service BIS and the National Bureau for Cyber Security and Information (NÚKIB) for pointing to alleged security threats posed by Russia and China “without offering any proof”.

Mr Zeman dismissed as “blather” charges made in the BIS annual report published in October that spies from those both countries are spreading disinformation in the Czech Republic with a view to influencing public opinion and engaging in economic espionage.

Shortly before Christmas, he rejected warnings from the cyber security bureau of potential threats posed by Chinese-made Huawei smartphones and computers – threats which have since promoted government ministries and offices to ban their use internally.

Now, in his latest appearance on private station TV Barrandov’s programme “This Week with the President”, he accused Education Minister Robert Plaga (ANO) of talking out of school – exceeding his mandate by meeting the spy agency chief to discuss lingering Soviet-era influence on how history is being framed and taught.

“I consider it a grave mistake of Minister of Education Plaga to talk about how history should be taught with the counterintelligence service. I don’t know why it should even be involved in such a discussion. Not even the (Communist-era) State Security service (StB) had the audacity to advise how to teach history.”

A week before, on the same programme, he accused BIS director Michal Koudelka and cyber security bureau director Dušan Navrátil of putting the Czech Republic’s economic interests at “serious risk” by issuing “unfounded” warnings about Russian and Chinese influence.

Robert Plaga, photo: Czech TelevisionRobert Plaga, photo: Czech Television For his part, Minister Plaga says he is convinced that in this age of “hybrid threats” and disinformation, greater attention than ever should be paid to teaching a balanced view of history.

“I truly think it is necessary to shift the centre of gravity with regard to the teaching of history. And the emphasis should be on modern history and not on the pre-war period.”

Minister Plaga told Czech Radio in an earlier interview he will work to shape the curricula – last updated by a Framework Educational Programme implemented in 2005 – in that direction.

Schools should also encourage critical thinking over rote memorisation of facts, he said, in order to better prepare students to interpret events for themselves.

18-01-2019

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