From prodigies to criminal children

From prodigies to criminal children

Distinguished Professor Enver Ziya Karal gave history lessons. Other professors gave zootechnics lessons, economy lessons as well as agriculture and geography.  Culture and literature lessons belonged to Sabahattin Eyüboğlu. What about music lessons? They were given by Aşık Veysel and Ruhi Su.

Esteemed masters from the Ankara Conservatory taught classic music. That was year 1945. The inventory of instruments was as follows: 259 mandolins, 55 violins, several Turkish instruments, eight accordions, three pianos, etc.

Prodigies Suna Kan and İdil Biret paid visits and village children would listen to their peers play the violin and the piano for inspiration. The students were painting, playing volleyball. They had a tennis court. They had a football field. They had a movie theater and an amphitheater.

Famous Turkish painter and poet Bedri Rahmi Eyüboğlu wrote in daily Cumhuriyet a memoir: “I saw a child at the barn where the animals of the school were kept. The night watch was his turn. He had a book in his hand, but he had fallen asleep. He was reading Shakespeare. We watched the play the school staged next day.”

They were listening to Mozart, Vivaldi and Beethoven, reading Gorki, Tolstoy and Zola. There was a tradition that each graduate should have read at least 150 classics. They would stage classic plays. In those years, a typical graduation ceremony would go in this order: The national anthem, a folk concert, folk songs, mandolin concert, poems, violin concert, piano concert, chorus, Anton Chekhov’s “A Marriage Proposal,” presenting of the diplomas and a folk dance all together…

The school yard hosted numerous statues. It was a five-year school. Including the summer, it was never closed. Thus, the education there corresponded to a six-seven years of the education of today. Students would not go on mass vacations; they would take turns to take one and a half months of leave every year.   

This education model was tagged “communist.” It was being accused of being a Soviet tool. Actually, this school was highly praised by visiting American experts. UNESCO examined it and recommended it as a role model to developing countries. More than 50 doctoral theses in Europe and the U.S. were written about it. It was in the Swiss Pedagogy Encyclopedia.

This was the village institute system. This one was near Ankara, at Elmadağ, the legendary Hasanoğlan Village Institute.

And the attacker who punched opposition leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu in Parliament the other day, he is also from Ankara’s Elmadağ’s Hasanoğlan village. He was born and raised there.

If that mentality that declared war against the enlightenment of Mustafa Kemal had spared the village institutes, had not closed them, he would probably have been a teacher playing the violin, painting pictures and playing tennis. He has been an unemployed, drug-popping criminal.

As a matter of fact, Hasanoğlan was formed precisely for these poverty-stricken kids like him to pull through.  

I know it will sound like a huge task, but we need to start from the very beginning.

We cannot let it unfold like this. We did not see the light of day in this country, and if we at least want our children and grandchildren to see it…

Then we have to fight this dark mentality wandering insidiously in the corridors of education…