I would like to add some information to that contained in Sally R. Boss' article on Polish history and literature textbooks (SR, XII/2, April 1992). The reforms which we are in the process of implementing are based on the assumption that Polish schools should have substantial freedom in setting up programs of study and in the selection of textbooks. The bottom line for this variety will be the basic outline of study of a given subject provided by the Ministry of Education. This outline will have to be implemented in order for the school to receive accreditation. However, it is expected that at least some schools will exceed that minimal program.

We are presently discussing the possible breadth and content of this basic program. Ms. Boss' comments and conclusions will be taken into account by the teams working on history and literature.

Our Office for School Reform is expected to offer a broader selection of textbooks than has been the case until now. In 1992, we have been offering both the updated and corrected versions of old textbooks, and the entirely new textbooks in history and literature (see the list below). Some of the problems mentioned by Ms. Boss, notably her comments on the posssible new canon of Polish literature, have already been addressed in these works. However, the final shape of the new canon will depend on the results of the discussion among specialists in Polish literature that is presently conducted in Poland.

Here are some new textbook titles that have appeared since Ms. Boss wrote her article:

  1. S. Szostakowski, Historia 6: Polska w czasach swietnosci i upadku, XIV-XVII w. (WSiP 1992)
  2. A. Szolc & A. Milczarczyk, Historia 7: W imie wolnosci (WSiP 1992)
  3. T. Glubinski, Historia 8: Trudne drogi XX wieku (WSiP 1992)
  4. J. Eisler, Zarys dziejow politycznych, 1944-1989: Polska pod wladza komunistyczna (BGW 1991)
  5. M.K. Kaminski, Od wojny do zniewolenia: Polska a Zwiazek Sowiecki. Stosunki polityczne 1939-1992 (Oswiata 1992)
  6. W. Roszkowski [Andrzej Albert], Historia Polski 1918-1990 (PWN 1991)
  7. J. Topolski, Historia Polski od czasow najdawniejszych do roku 1990 (Polczek 1992)
  1. B. Chrzastowska, E. Wiegandtowa, S. Wyslouch, Literatura wspolczesna: Podrecznik dla klas maturalnych (Nakom 1992)
  2. I. Szypowska (oprac.), Poezja odzyskana: Antologia poezji polskiej lat 1939-1989. Ksiazka pomocnicza dla szkol srednich (WSiP 1992)
  3. J. Przybylska-Gmyrek, Wypisy z literatury polskiej i obcej od starozytnosci do wspolczesnosci (Labos 1992)
  4. R. Chodzko, Wyobraznia wyzwolona: Rzeczywistosc osoby i nierzeczywistosc doktryny. Podrecznik dla klasy IV liceum ogolnoksztalcacego (ERA 1992)
Regarding the adjectives "radziecki" versus "sowiecki:" we understand that western and emigre scholars consider the first to be a product of foreign occupation. However, this word is now current in Polish usage, and usage cannot be changed administratively. In present-day history textbooks both adjectives are being used (see the above list). A footnote explaining the political context in which the word "radziecki" was introduced into Polish might be in order in high school textbooks.

Andrzej Stelmachowski
Minister of Education, Republic of Poland

I read with interest the article on Polish literature and history textbooks. A comparison of the schoolbooks of different countries - especially history textbooks - can be fascinating. History textbooks often mirror how a society sees itself - or wants its children to see itself. Ms. Boss's comments point this out in various ways. Her own priorities for Polish students' studies reveal a view of a society strengthened by a common heritage with the democratic West and reinvigorated by knowledge of the achievements of the Middle Ages and of ideas, people, and events suppressed by the Soviets....

...a meeting of American and Soviet scholars and publishers in Moscow a couple of years ago that was part of a decade-long comparative study of American and Soviet textbooks...was an eye-opening experience for all who participated - though its commercial value to publishers was limited. A workshop on east central European and American textbooks could also yield much in improved understanding. However, you would need to look outside the publishing industry to the larger communities involved for funding for such a proposal.

Barbara Flynn, Editorial Vice President
Social Studies/Foreign Languages, ScottForesman
(A Division of HarperCollinsPublishers), Glenview, Illinois

....Soviet textbooks authors told us in June 1989 that it would take anywhere from three to five years to revise their texts. In the meantime, they said, teachers will have to be resourceful and use whatever materials they can find in newspapers and magazines to provide their students with historically accurate accounts. The problem is no less difficult in the East European countries. [In April 1992] one of my colleagues here attended a conference on Eastern Europe where he learned from two Polish specialists of the difficulties involved in revising the history curriculum and rewriting Polish history texts. Neither of the Polish specialists gave my colleague any estimate as to when that process is likely to be completed.

The matter of how Eastern Europe is treated in U.S. textbooks presents other difficulties. Many of our high schools offer a single course in world history to cover everything beyond American history. Teachers typically rely on a world history textbook in such courses. The challenge for a textbook writer is how to include all topics of importance covering the world "from ugh to us" in the limited space of a single text. The problem is further complicated by the fact that texts are published for a national market which in reality is made up of an ethnically diverse population... Often what happens is that current events will highlight the importance of an area that may not have been given extensive attention in the text. (...) This is as true for college texts as for high school texts. The scholarly community then responds with fuller treatment of that area with updated versions of the text. This is an ongoing process and tends to balance off to a certain extent inadequate treatment in previous editions....

Arnold Schrier, member of the Joint US-USSR Textbook Study Commission, Cincinnati, Ohio
The author is a Professor of History at the University of Cincinnati.

The April 1992 issue of The Sarmatian Review was not as good as the January issue.

Stanley M. Garstka, Riverside, California

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