Orthodox church intervenes in schools' religion course
Orthodox church intervenes in schools' religion course
PRIEST SUMMONED TO PRINCIPAL'S OFFICE
by Mikhail Moshkin
Moskovskie novosti, 13 March 2013
Moscow bureaucrats have produced the first results of the teaching of
the module "Foundations of Orthodox culture." According to data of the
Ministry of Education and Science, in 2012/2013, the first year of the
compulsory teaching of Foundations of Religious Cultures and Secular
Ethics in Moscow, almost half of the parents preferred that their fourth
grade children study Foundations of Secular Ethics; second place was
held by World Religious Cultures; and Foundations of Orthodox culture
were only in third place. The Russian Orthodox Church suggests that such
an outcome was attended, to a great extent, by arbitrariness by
principals and partly by ignorance of the parents.
In advance, seven months before the beginning of the new school year,
the RPTs has decided to prevent the reoccurrence of such problems and to
prepare properly both teachers, and parents, and education officials.
Representatives of RPTs who are in charge of religious education (and of
cooperation of the church with the secular schools), on their own
initiative, met with the leaders of the capital's Department of
Education and expressed their "final and irrevocable" wishes regarding
the teaching of Foundations of Orthodox culture. According to the head
of the department, Isaak Kalina, his office is always ready to listen to
representatives of other religions. "There is a famous phrase about
equidistance, but in this case we can speak of equal proximity of
confessions," Kalina added.
Since 1 September in all fourth grades schoolchildren have been studying
for a year one of six components of the foundations course. These are
the foundations of Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist or (what is more likely)
Orthodox culture, or foundations of world religious cultures or
foundations of secular ethics. "Around 5,000 teachers have been trained
in all six modules," the vice-chairman of the department of education,
Tatiana Vasileva, reported.
It is planned that by 1 April parents of schoolchildren should determine
their "confessional" or "secular" choice for their child. But after the
meeting it was learned that parents have the right to modify this choice
even after the beginning of the course. For example, to transfer the
child from the group studying secular ethics to the group where the
foundations of Orthodox culture are being taught (or vice versa). As
Tatiana Vasileva explained, for this it is sufficient to fill out a
standard form, an example of which is on the website of the department
and of district education boards, and to deliver this statement to the
"We are required to give parents the opportunity to refine their choice
at any time in connection with their receipt of additional information,"
Isaak Kalina explained. "Therefore we have created a reserve of
textbooks. I think that no problems should arise."
Discussion of the question of "additional information" and the
possibility of "refining the choice" was begun on the initiative of
RPTs. Priests, who mainly took the floor during the conference,
complained that the choice of modules in the foundations course
established by the principal of a school was kept secret from
representatives of the church. The priests also said that often in the
choice of one or another module the opinion of the parents was
ignored---"the teaching staff decided what would be simpler for it."
"One can only hope and believe that this will be the conscious choice of
the family," the head of the Department of Education noted on this
matter. "But to say that this problem has been 100% resolved today would
be deceitful or more naïve on my part."
"Parental meetings have still not been held in 24 out of 37 schools, and
in two schools we were categorically refused entrance, and of the
remaining, in every other one parental wishes were sabotaged," declared
Archpriest Georgy Krylov, a representative of the Northwest vicariate of
the Moscow diocese. "For example, in the Corp of Cadets No. 1700 the
principal was replaced, and the new principal assembled the staff and
teachers and ordered: 'We will choose secular ethics.' Fortunately the
parents rebelled and only after their open protest was the meeting able
to be held." Father Mikhail Sergeev, who is responsible for the
Southeast vicariate, complained against the administration of school No.
1987 in Marina, where "there was not any parents' meeting and the
procedure for choice of the module in the foundations course was signed
back in December." At the same time, as the secretary of the Southwest
vicariate, Archpriest Aleksei Ladygin, noted, in many schools it was
after talking with priests and teachers of the Foundations of Orthodox
culture that parents decided to change the choice they had made.
The leaders of the Department of Education have accommodated the church.
Isaak Kalina read one of the decisions made on the basis of the results
of the meeting: "Correlate the lists of those responsible for
foundations at the level of districts and deaneries of RPTs and deliver
the lists of official representatives of RPTs for participation in
parents' meetings for selection of modules of foundations." It is
assumed that these authorized priests will not confine themselves to
attendance at a single parents' meeting, and their task will include
talking with the principal and teachers of "sponsored" schools.
In addition, it was decided to assemble on 16 April in the church of
Christ the Savior all teachers who will be teaching Foundations of
Orthodox culture in Moscow schools. It is possible that Patriarch Kirill
also will participate in this meeting as the ruling bishop of Moscow,
the head of the synod's Department of Religious Education and
Catechesis, Metropolitan of Rostov and Novocherkassk Merkury, reported.
(tr. by PDS, posted 13 March 2013)
Russian original posted on Interfax-Religiia site, 13 March 2013
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