Civic education in Teschen Silesia at the beginning of the 20est century
PhDr. Mgr. Marie Nádvorníková, email@example.com
Abstract: This text offers a brief view of civic education in Teschen Silesia after the establishment of Czechoslovakia in 1918. The new time evoked the need for democratization of education, and children, adolescents as well as adults became the object for modernized upbringing and educational activity. Linking theoretical knowledge and practical skills has provided peoples’ education courses graduates with a better access to the working world. It was a progressive thought; however, geo-political, economical and social changes were not always favourable and forthcoming from the perspective of the people involved. In particular at the newly established areas that were strongly influenced by the national questions as it was in Teschen Silesia where the Poles became Czech citizens almost overnight.
Key words: edification, national minority, progressive education, Teschen Silesia, adult education
The subject of the following lines is an effort to bring a slight part of the development of an edifying and educational system at the territory of Teschen Silesia at the turn of the 19th and 20est century closer to the readers.
The development of association activity has commenced a wave of edification and education of wide masses and became very popular among the Teschen region’s inhabitants. The end of World War I brought about the end of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy and in 1918, the originally Polish territory of the Teschen Silesia was assigned to Czechoslovakia. The Poles became unwillingly the citizens of a new state but their effort to preserve and implement their own educational aims and to maintain their native language and traditions has been greatly facilitated by Act No. 67/1919 Coll., on Organization of Peoples’ Courses of Civics.
2. Historical and socioeconomic basis of Teschen Silesia
The ancient history of the territory, which we call Těšínsko now, had begun already at the time of existence of the Great Moravian Empire. Later on, it came under the administration of Přemyslids, to become a part of the vast estate of the significant Polish Piast dynasty. During the middle Ages, the Czech, Polish and German influences were peacefully mingled. The princes of Teschen were trying to extricate themselves from the Polish influence but they had to wait until 1335 to be completely free. At that time, the Czech king Jan of Bohemia and the Polish king Kazimierz concluded the Treaty of Trentschin and both rulers gave each other back the occupied territories. Silesia had became Czech and remained so until the reign of Maria Theresia who lost a part of this territory. A part of Silesia which was composed of the Duchy of Teschen and Opavian Silesia was assigned to Austria, being later attached to Moravia.
The Teschen Silesia, however, was still not clearly institutionally classified. The state administration and the judiciary belonged under the influence of the Higher Regional Court in Brno, the army had its main headquarters in Polish Krakow and the railway administration was based in Olomouc, however, the Church was subject to Wroclaw which was situated at the territory of Germany at that time. This ambivalence was not helped much by the effort of the newly established Czechoslovakia which claimed the territory of the Teschen Silesia referring to the historical belonging to the Czech Crown. The Polish part responded very quickly, requesting the territory under its administration with regard to the significant national majority of the citizens at that time. Indeed, the original population was composed of Czechs, Poles, Germans and it were the Poles who constituted an autochthonous population which was featured by strong national awareness and own cultural heritage
The national disputes of both sovereign nations have mingled over several other decades. On the one hand, the sharp economic growth at the end of the 19th century has diverted attention from national disputes, on the other hand, it has caused the growth of importance of the region and therefore it could have been assumed that there are going to be frictions in the future in terms of which nationality is the dominant one and has therefore the primary right to make decisions of the future development.
In the second half of the 19th century, the economic situation at the Teschen region has considerably changed. Due to the expansion of black coal mining, establishing the steelworks and the construction of the Košice - Bohumín railway line, the textile area so far has developed into an industrial area. As the significance and importance of this region was growing, the number of inhabitants was increasing as a result of migration as well as due to the population development, and the disputes between the Czech and Polish national group were also growing.
The end of the World War I brought a hope to calm down the national turmoil but even then the Czech and the Poles did not agree. The fight whether the state border will lead on the left or on the right bank of the Olše river flowing through this territory has lasted for entire two years. Eventually, the Czech variant of the request was pushed through. A new international situation contributed to this, where the Poles entangled themselves into the Russian Civil War and Poland was forced to agree to the decision of the allied arbitration and while the Czech part was given the industrial part of the territory, the agricultural area remained to Poland. The town of Teschen, the main point of the Teschen Silesia, was divided by the natural river border to Polish Cieszyn and Český Těšín.
The situation did not calm down even by re-distributing these disputed territories, however, the Poles had many possibilities for their own realisation at the territory of Czechoslovakia due to the democratic policy of the new republic. As a national minority, they had the possibility to develop public life by participating in political parties, they could have worked in state organisations, they had own education, cultural, religious and other associations.
3. An outline of edification and education in Teschen Silesia
The nineteenth and twenties century can be considered as the centuries of edification. Democratization of education was the fundamental idea and the direction in which the modern edification was to move, it was primarily about balancing the educational opportunities across the population. The effort was to create such a network of schools and institutions that would provide free education and edification, to create a scholarship for the needed and even hostels for future persons interested in education. The focus was, however, not only on children and adolescents, but also on the establishment of educational institutions for adults that would allow them to complete the education they have begun or to change qualification or would only support those interested in development of their own hobbies.
3.1 Educational system before 1918
In the second half of the 19th century, more accurately in the 1960s and 1970s, there were fundamental changes in the internal policy of Austria-Hungary. The officials responsible for education and school system were under the auspices of their own ministry. The major achievement of this ministry was the issuance of an act on Austrian education where the emphasis was laid on the right to teach and educate pupils in languages that were common at the territory of Austria-Hungary. This provision of the law applied also to negotiations at offices and to the application of native language in public life and was to facilitate the life for the minorities. However, this has not been reflected in practise. German continued to be recognised as the official and teaching language and there were national disputes and frictions. The effort to separate educational institutions from the Church had the same fate. There were established or, more accurately, renewed regional, district and local school councils, but they were under the influence of the Catholic Church.
In the area of Teschen Silesia, the situation was not any better or more progressive. The compulsory teaching in the German language was from time to time interrupted by teachers who had the effort to bring the educational possibilities closer also to the children whose mother tongue was Czech or Polish.
The establishment of associations whose existence was permitted by the General Act on Associations from 1867 and which had been considerably limited and prohibited by that time had a considerable impact on education. The ground of the municipal associations was a place where people from different social strata would meet and cooperate and the activities therein were understood to be a substantial part of social, cultural and political life. By being a member in the associations, the citizens would define themselves against other people and push through their own attitudes and opinions. The association’s activity was, however, under the scrutiny of state authorities and any their activities must have been reported to the provincial council. These reports show that there were seventeen associations at the territory of Teschen Silesia at the end of the 19th century and in terms of focus, they were divided into political, teacher, consumption, savings, agro-economic but also music and shooting ones. Interesting is the fact that the representatives of Polish and German population were more interested in establishing associations. The Czechs did not show a significant interest which did not mean, however, that they would not have gotten involved into the activity of the other ones. The Austrian administration was not pleased a lot by two organisations that carried out their activities directly in Teschen and that were accused of national agitation – Czytelnia Ludowa (Peoples’ reading room) and Towarzystwo rolnicze dla Księstwa Cieszyńskiego (Agricultural association for the Duchy of Teschen).
It indicates that the associations established by Polish citizens were mostly focused on national edification, carrying out agitation activities. In addition to the already mentioned Peoples’s reading room, there was Polská lidová beseda (Polish People’s Debate) and Spořitelní a záložní společnost (Savings Society). Czech tended to cultural-edification associations, establishing their fist one only in 1880 under the name Snaha (the Effort). The main aim of the Snaha was to hold debates, music and theatre performances and to spread the Czech press and books.
All these associations were the center of Polish and Czech intelligence and bourgeoisie. The first workers association at the territory of Teschen Silesia was Všeobecný dělnický vzdělávací spolek (General workers’ educational association). The development of the association activities and their continual transformation from one-field organisations to cultural and edification organisations, the growing interest in the membership in these association and increasing interest in children and adult education has lead to the establishment of the Matice organisation called Matice osvěty lidové pro knížectví Těšínské (Macierz Szkolna dla Księstwa Cieszyńskiego)in 1885.
The Matice organisation was rarely unified in the other years of its existence, despite the efforts to interrupt its Polish majority; the Czechs did not manage to achieve this change without a "fight". The required changes were gradually introduced after moving the Matice to Ostrava.
After the outbreak of the war, all edifying activities have been suspended and upon the enrollment of the Matice agents to the army, it has gradually ceased. After the end of the war and the establishment of Czechoslovakia, the name of the association was changed to Matice osvěty lidové pro Těšínsko and in 1923 to Slezská Matice osvěty lidové pro Těšínsko a Hlučínsko.
3.2 Progressive education and minority school system after 1918
The end of the World War I has brought consensus across the political spectrum which consisted in the requirement for democratization of the school system. Although major changes in the school system were expected, no distinctive reform was undertaken and the republic took over the Austro-Hungarian dualistic educational system.
The reforms of primary education followed the pre-war traditions, drawing from the Komensky pedagogy and complementing education with new philosophical flows and psychological or physiological knowledge.
The center of attention of reform pedagogy was progressive education, which was most successful in France and in Switzerland and which has successfully continued until World War II. The starting point for this innovative access was the pedagogy of culture and its main representative was German pedagogue and theoretician Georg Kirschensteiner (1854–1932). The leading Czech reformers of this period included professors Otakar Kádner (1870–1936), Otokar Chlup (1875–1965) and Václav Příhoda (1889–1979).
In order to implement the progressive education projects, new theoretical bases were created that were interconnected with the practical part based on the implementation of theoretical assumptions. In this way, new special educational institutions, so called reform schools were created, whose aim was to educate wide public, and especially the poor and even women that had not many opportunities to educate themselves in the then society were not forgotten.
The reform of the school and educational system was to have a positive impact on all citizens of Czechoslovakia, including the national minorities. To address this issue, so essential for Teschen Silesia, there was passed an act No. 189/1919 of Coll. on National Schools and Private Teaching and Upbringing Institutions, guaranteeing the right for every minority to establish and manage their school. The aim of the support of the minority education was to achieve equality in education of the Czechoslovakia citizens and was essential in combating the high level of illiteracy.
3.3 Teschen Silesia – edifying activities and education of peoples’ masses
The first official legislative act focused on edification and education in the newly established Czechoslovak Republic was Act on. 67/1919 Coll., on Organizing the Peoples’ Courses of Civics, dated on February 7, 1919. The first article of this legislative document stipulated that civics courses, intended for all population of the state, should be held free of charge throughout Czechoslovakia. The text further stipulates the establishment of departments that will address this issue and the towns’ and municipalities’ obligation to financially support these activities.
Following the above-mentioned act on availability of education for all national groups of the young Czechoslovakia, the edifying activities and education of peoples’ masses were developing promisingly also at the Teschen territory. This area was featured by a high portion of population with Polish mother tongue and the effort of the Poles to extricate themselves from the influence of the Czech authorities and Czech schools.
Establishing educational associations and organising peoples courses in Teschen Silesia has never been subjected exclusively to Czech conditions but the educators drew from the experiences of Polish pedagogues and educators.
Although the Poles living at the Czech territory had tried to preserve the purest integrity with their old motherland, they were taking advantage of the knowledge of modern edification and education of both republics – the Czechoslovak Republic and the so-called Second Polish Republic (1918–1939). In this respect, they were very flexible and managed to take the important and needed for them from both educational systems.
Edification and popular education courses were to provide the most basic awareness of state organisation and governance, basic civil and political education and were to strengthen citizens’ loyalty to their country. These courses would always be variegated by a show or other social activities.
4. Basic Czech and Polish forms of edification and education after 1918
4.1 Association of courses for illiterate adults
Association of Adult Literacy Courses (Stowarzyszenie kursów dla analfabetów dorosłych) was one of the first organisations that were established at the beginning of the 20est century and was dedicated to the poorest population. This officially registered association has carried out its activity since 1906, focusing on organizing complete teaching blocks that were focused on the teaching of writing and reading.
In addition to this care of the needed, the educators performed also trainings and education of future teachers and collaborating volunteers, closely co-operating with the Matice lidové osvěty in their country. The management of libraries, reading rooms and folk houses was an integral part of the association.
4.2 Matice osvěty lidové
People’s courses were mostly organized by the Matice osvěty lidové organization, having a very good reputation in the Teschen region. Most often they were intended for women and their content included cooking, home care, embroidery. In the course of time, also teaching of the Czech language was included to the content of Matice, which was intended for Polish population of this region.
Even men would participate in the courses more frequently, demanding courses aimed at supplementing or acquiring craft skills. Individual crafts would be taught both on theoretical and practical level and the centeres of these courses were placed as close to the natural environment as possible. Yet there were courses belonging to the mountains by their nature that could be attended by town citizens.
Wood carving and toy making was such a course popular among Teschen Silesians. Most often it would be organized at the foothills of the Beskydy mountains, with the center in the town of Jablunkov, in particular in the environment of the Czech State General School in Jablunkov. The wood carving courses would took place in the winter and spring months and upon pupils’ request also during the Eastern and Christmas holiday. There was interest in this kind of people’s courses also outside the Jablunkov region, in particular in the district town of Teschen. Matice acknowledged such interest with gratitude and organized courses for men there as well. The output of these courses were household items, such as picture frameworks, toilette mirrors, trays, jewellery cases, book stands, decorative cases and other small furniture.
In its activities, Matice osvěty lidové also remembered cultural- educational activities that were realized through puppet performances at the Teschen region.
This activity was entrusted to the Unit of Pre-School teachers in Orlova but it was organized by Matice in terms of content and organization. In addition to puppets and coulisses, the puppet theatre equipment was composed also of the "Funny Mash" book, containing one thousand rhymes, weather lores, riddles and being the most basic source of texts for educating the people through puppet theatre. However, the use of a puppet performance did not serve only for amusement.
The content of the puppetry productions was also to disrupt stability at places with different nationality. Where else would this kind of edification take roots than in Teschen Silesia, a territory administered by Czechs but inhabited largely by Polish speaking citizens? Even though the Merry Andrew was accepted as a hero and teacher, there was a strong Polish branch at the town of Karviná, in the part of Slovinec, which did not accept this form of education and edification. The Poles were so numerous and socially proficient in this part of the town that they built themselves Robotniczy dom (The House of Workers) with a full-fledged hall and stage and they were holding distinct Polish entertainment, balls, courses for adults and performances for children here.
Since 1921, the publication of three Matice calendars, Teschen, Moravian and Silesian calendar has played a significant role in the educational and edifying activity of Matice. Even though the calendars were distributed all over the republic and were sent also to Ministries and even to the Presidential Office, most printed copies ended up in Teschen Silesia. The aim of the publishers was to provide each family with one printed copy, even in the most remote villages. The Teschen calendar had approximately 200 pages; each year was thematically focused, containing articles and matters of interest from around the world (claimed by the authors). Each year was enriched by the knowledge of the Czechoslovak state, important laws, statistical data from census with the emphasis on the decreasing number of citizens of nationality other than Czech. The calendar was fulfilling conscientiously the educational and edifying function and was a significant weapon of Matice against the spread of Polish and German at the Czech territory.
4.3 Workers’ Academy
Under the auspices of the Social Democratic Party, Dělnická akademie, jednota českolovanských spolků dělnických v Království českém (Workers’ Academy, the Union of Czech-Slavonic workers’ associations in the Kingdom of Bohemia) was established at the territory of Czechoslovakia in 1896. This academy was understood as a school supporting independent thinking and providing a theoretical base for other specialized and practical education. The Academy was used by the workers as their center for the realisation of political and association life. In addition to two and three-year courses at the high-school level, also single lectures and courses were held, literature was popularized and even women were not forgotten- they had the possibility to attend specialized programmes. This type of education became more and more popular and 320 educational courses were held in 1909 under the heading of Workers Academy.
At the Teschen territory, this kind of edification and education was practised in the vicinity of industrial plants where there was a large number of workers. The only people’s institution having such focus in Teschen Silesia was Vyšší dělnická lidová škola v Ostravě. (Workers higher people’s school) in Ostrava.
The fact that even representatives of intellectual elite were getting involved to the edifying and educational activity was evidenced by the group called Ognisko (the Fire). The main members and at the same time the educators were Polish professors, solicitors, physicians and mining engineers who would organize theatre performances, thematically focused evening parties, balls but mainly participate in the development of organized youth and adult sport’s life.
Not also history, but also experiences from different European countries, regardless the differences of their economic level prove that edification and education are the best basis for the support and development of all involved. What would have been the industrial revolution of the 19th century for, had there not been educated people that had caused it, had there not been an element in the evolutionary path of the mankind that would have shown interest, not only as a simple user but also as the successor of the things that have begun.
At the beginning of the 20est century, there were efforts to break out of the yoke of dictatorship, occupation and other forces, and the educated people having access to sources were fully aware of the fact the richness of their countries consists in the education of the broader population.
In a sense a romantic idea which, however, cannot be downplayed, has evolved from the primary altruistic works to an extensive educational and edifying process which has been recognized over time.
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