Latvian Minister of Education Issues Ordinance for Promotion of Lettish Culture in Minority Schools:
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Latvian Minister of Education Issues Ordinance for Promotion of Lettish Culture in Minority Schools:

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The Minister of Education, M. Keninsch, has issued a new order relating to the minority secondary and professional schools, which provides: (1) That the secondary and professional schools of the minorities may teach only children belonging to that nationality whose mother tongue is used as the language of instruction in the school; (2) that in the secondary and professional schools of the Jewish minority, the language of instruction must be Yiddish, or Hebrew; (3) in the secondary and professional schools, where the language of instruction is the State language, children of all nationalities may be taught; (4) these provisions will enter into force on August 1st., 1932. In the existing minority secondary and professional schools these provisions will apply from August 1st., 1932 to newly-enrolled students, and will extend gradually to all classes in these schools, so that in the course of 1933-34 it will extend to the second class, and so on.

Teachers in the minority schools will have to pass an examination in the Lettish language by June 1st., 1934.

The Minister of Education has issued a further order under which all representatives and teachers of minority schools must sit for an examination in the Lettish language, written and oral, by June 1st., 1934. Teachers who will have attained the age of 50 by January 1st., 1932 will be exempt from the examination. A special examining commission will be set up by the Schools Department for this purpose. Teachers and school representatives who have passed the examination will be given preference in appointments to minority schools.

The same curriculum as in the Lettish schools will have to be introduced into the minority schools.

A third order issued by the Minister of Education relates to the preparatory, elementary and continuation schools of the minorities and provides that (1) beginning with the school year 1932-3 the existing curriculum of the Lettish preparatory, elementary and continuation schools must be introduced into the preparatory, elementary and continuation schools of the minorities. All subjects, in addition to the Lettish language and the mother tongue of the minority, will in future have to be taught according to this curriculum; (2) the Lettish language, the mother tongue of the minority, and the religious education of Jewish students and students of the Old Believers are to be taught in the minority schools according to a special programme which will have to be approved by the Minister of Education; (3) the Lettish language must be placed on the same level in the minority schools as the minority language. In addition to the Lettish language and the mother tongue of the minority, the minority schools, beginning with the fifth elementary class, may also teach one foreign language, Russian, German, French, or English, as the School Administration decides in agreement with the proper school authority; (4) the Lettish language and the history and the geography of Latvia, must be taught in the Lettish language, and must be taught as independent subjects. They must not form part of the general history, or general geography lessons, or of lessons on other subjects; (5) subjects which are not included in the curriculum of the Lettish elementary schools, must not be taught in the minority schools, except by permission of the Minister of Education if there are

special circumstances, or if it is not contrary to the basic principles of the law relating to the educational institutions of Latvia; (6) all alterations in the programmes of the Lettish preparatory, elementary and continuation schools automatically come into effect in the preparatory, elementary and continuation schools of the minorities, except where a special exempting ordinance is issued by the Ministry of Education.

All existing ordinances relating to the preparatory, elementary and continuation schools of the minorities are cancelled by this order.


Speaking in the Seym, the Minister of Education, M. Keninsch, explained his policy by declaring that the Ministry of Education is doing everything possible to strengthen the national forces of the Lettish people.

The Latvian State, he said, was created by the Lettish majority and not by the minorities, and if the State were at any time in danger, it would be the Lettish majority that would defend the country.

The Minister alleged that the minority nationalities are conducting a separatist policy, instead of realising that Latvia must have one unified Lettish culture. The minorities cannot create a culture of their own in Latvia, he said, and it is therefore evident that all their forces must be devoted to developing Lettish culture, which alone has any chance of development in our country.

The Lettish people have the right, he said, to demand that the minorities must know the Lettish language. It is essential that the cultures of the minorities, insofar as they exist, must merge with the Lettish culture. The trouble with education and culture in Latvia is that the youth of the country is divided up into several groups, so that it is impossible for us to have one great united culture. That explains why Lettish culture does not occupy the important place that it should. If we admit that each minority may have an elementary school, he said, the secondary school, however, must be one in which all children will receive the same education in the one Latvian culture common to all the people of our country. It is necessary to unify the secondary schools not only for economic reasons, he said, but also for the sake of the future of Latvia.

The Minister of Education contended that he was not animated by hositility to the minorities, but he could not tolerate the minorities setting up a State within a State. It was Lettish culture that must unite all the people living in Latvia, just as in all other countries the culture of the majority people is the only decisive and dominating culture. Our minorities refuse to respect our Lettish culture, he said. we can understand people opposing a Government or a Minister, but they must not oppose the Lettish people.


Deputy Wittenberg, of the Agudath Israel repudiated the charge made against the minorities. It is not true, he said that in time of trouble only the Lettish majority would defend the country. The war of liberation had proved, he said, that the minorities, especially the Jews, fought shoulder to shoulder with the Letts for the independence of their common country. The Minister had no ground for the charges he had made against them. Nobody had any complaint to make if the Minister of Education sought to promote Lettish culture, to make it a source of pride to the entire population of Latvia. But the

Minister, in order to attain his goal, was seeking to destroy the cultures of the minorities. That they could not permit. His assertion that the minority cultures were competing with the Lettish culture was not justified. The minorities only wanted to develop their distinctive character. They wanted to carry on their school system and retain their national culture. We do not want to compete with Lettish culture in the sense of fighting against it and seeking to destroy it. The Minister said that he wants to build and develop Lettish culture. At whose expense? At the expense of the minorities. A short while ago the Minister of Education called a conference of the minorities to tell them that he was going to do away with the school inspectors. If he had called together the minorities and asked them for their assistance to increase the study of the Lettish language in the minority schools, the minorities would have assisted him, and the scheme would have been a success. But the Minister had not done that. What he was doing was not a real educational policy. It did not lead to national revival. Instead of doing something positive, he was destroying. He was closing down secondary schools, artisan schools, dismissing school inspectors. That was not building. It was disruptive. It was a policy of cultural enmity and hatred. If the minorities had anything good, the Minister was out to destroy it, and on their ruins he thought he would build up Lettish culture.

The Minister of Education, Deputy Wittenberg said, was speaking in defence of one unified cultural system for all inhabitants, but he forget that the great majority of the Lettish students treat every young Jew who has entered the University as an enemy. What measures had the Minister of Education taken to put down this antisemitic feeling, which is being preached in the official organ of the Lettish University? What Latvia needs, Deputy Wittenberg said, is a Minister of Education who represents not a group or a Party, but the whole people. The minorities cannot collaborate with a Minister whose activity consists only of destroying the cultural foundation and the cultural achievements of the minorities.

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