by George J Elbaum
The XXXIII Bilingual Liceum Mikolaja Kopernika is a public school established more than 60 years ago with current attendance of approximately 1000 students in the 5 grades of liceum + gimnazjum. Of these, 240 students attended my presentation in English, which was possible because all entering students must pass a written & oral English proficiency test, as all classes are taught bilingually.
The Liceum is certified to teach the IB Diploma Programme, which is authorized and managed by the International Baccalaureate Organization in only 33 schools in Poland. During two years of study, the students prepare for final examinations in 6 subjects in the following groups: native language, foreign languages, mathematics, social sciences, and natural sciences. Additionally, IB students write research papers, participate in Theory of Knowledge classes and extracurricular activities to develop their creativity as well as physical and social skills. The IB Programme is conducted in English and the IB Diploma is recognized by universities around the world.
This was the first of my 6 talks in Poland this year, and it occurred only weeks after the Polish government criminalized any suggestion that Poles might have been complicit in the Holocaust in any way. This excessive, nationalistically-inspired measure raised an international outcry, as the truth is widely known (and as I personally experienced) that while many Poles risked their lives to hide and save Jews, yet some did indeed collaborate with the Nazis. I was therefore pleasantly surprised that students in this school and also in the other 5 were aware of this and asked me questions on this subject, such as “What was the attitude of Poles toward Jews during the war?” and “Do you blame Poles who were afraid and did not hide Jews?” and “What is taught about the Holocaust in America?”
My visit to Liceum Kopernika was organized by teacher Agnieszka White and arranged by Violetta Tarnowska, who has ably arranged talks for me in Warsaw schools since I first spoke in her school in May 2014.