On Poetry and Culture Shock

Religion in schools, both sides of the Atlantic.

Since I came back to Spain three months ago (already!?), there is of course a lot less culture-shock to talk about. Seville can be a very quirky, culture-shocking place, but I don't really have my commedy-of-manners sensors in full operating mode. Also, my life is hectic these days so I don't really have time to reflect enough (hence the abundance of other people's poetry over the last month or so). So excuse me if I recycle something from when my blog had a different location. Anyway, it still applies.

For the last 10 to 15 years, the role that religion should have or not have at schools in Spain has made the news very often. This is so because of the political changes; the Constitution gives a wide margin of freedom to the government, and the only things that would be definitely anticonstitutional are to teach against any religion or to force children to take Religion classes against their parents’ wishes. Simplifying a lot, when the conservatives are in power they want Religion to be a school subject as important as Music or History, and non-Catholic kids can take a few bland alternatives like extra credit where needed, and the socialists (socialdemocrats? Anyway, the guys to the left of the conservatives and to the right of the communists) try to please everyone at the same time by keeping the Religion subject while reducing its weight in the curriculum (when I was a child the grade didn’t count towards my average grade) and giving some entity to the alternative for non-Catholics; some form of Education in Secular Moral Values. Every major change in the government over the last 20 years has altered the education system, or at least tried to.

The main argument used in favour of the Religion subject is that Catholicism is important to Spanish society; besides, conservatives have never taken seriously the secular alternative as a subject, which is not a fault of the principle but of the practice: in my school, there was a year or two when I and the other kids that didn’t want to take Religion were left alone and unsupervised in the school library, with a teacher coming to check on us if we were noisy.

The main arguments of the enemies of that course are: Spain does not have an official religion, Catholicism is unfairly privileged, and the time and the resources spent on it should go to teach “real” subjects. Leaving aside that they dislike Catholicism, of course, as a doctrine of oppression and misery (and anticonstitutional principles such as sexual discrimination, but that’s another rant for another day).

I think that the conservatives are missing the point. Their main motive is obviously that they would like to retain as much public presence as they can get. While they are in schools they can make an effort to keep children and maybe even teens under their influence. They are so shortsighted… no, excuse me. They are so fucking blind. Just go and compare with the American situation. In this country, as far as I know, the First Amendment forces schools to behave as if religions didn’t exist. All religions. If Evolution is out of the school curriculum in some States it is because it was judged to be against the beliefs of some Christians, not because the schools of that State are officially Christian. And still it is the developed country with the highest percentage of people going to church regularly (I mean church, temple, mosque, synagogue, place of worship in general). And the highest percent of people calling themselves Christian too. Why? Because you cannot make believers at school. Children believe first their parents, then their peers. You cannot inspire religion by teaching it, not beyond age five, not to people who live in a secular world the other 23 hours of the day.

The most the Spanish conservatives would get would be stealing one or two hours a week away from the real courses. Have children and teens study for Religion exams when they should be studying Literature and Science. Pay the salary of the Religion teacher with the money that should pay a new computer or books for the library. And then all those children would become atheists, as they so often do, as soon as they hit sixteen years-old. Because it is in the air they breathe. Simple as that.

0 comentarios