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Orthodox church intervenes in schools' religion course

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  • Bill Samsonoff
    http://www2.stetson.edu/~psteeves/relnews/1303b.html#16 Orthodox church intervenes in schools religion course PRIEST SUMMONED TO PRINCIPAL S OFFICE by Mikhail
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 13 9:57 AM

      Orthodox church intervenes in schools' religion course

      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
      school's principal.

      "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

      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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