Despite opposition, religion in public schools is expanding


Religious innovations have been prepared for the upcoming academic year

Nezavisimaia Gazeta, 28 August 2017


In regions of Russia, work on the preparation for the academic year is bubbling up. Thus, in Tambov, construction of a new building of the Orthodox Ecclesiastical Seminary has been completed in the center of the city. The erected building is located opposite the provincial Board of Science and Education, on the site of a former high school. At some time, the school was built on the ruins of a demolished belfry and this was the basis for the return of the territory to the church.


The proximity of a church pleases education officials in other regions of Russia also. For example, the education ministry of Arkhangelsk province, Igor Skubenko, noted on 24 August of this year that he welcomes the involvement of the church in all spheres of life, including in education. "I think that this is absolutely proper. When the church is nearby that is healthy. In this way the people are cleansed from an alien ideology," the press service of the Astrakhan [sic—Arkhangelsk?—tr.] diocese of the RPTs quotes the official. Metropolitan of Arkhangelsk and Kholmogory Daniel answered the provincial minister: "The task of teachers is to bring up the young generation that will be worthy of their great ancestors." This has become a good theme—to confer with bishops regarding improving the effectiveness of education and innovations in pedagogy.


As reported in the Tambov diocese of the RPTs, the urban seminary will be equipped with the latest technology. Moreover, the church's experience of innovations will be extended also to other academic institutions of the province. In the innovative "Skolkovo-Tambov School" a new subject has been included in the curriculum—theology.


And why not? Recently there was conducted the first defense of a kandidat's dissertation in theology in Russia. This area of knowledge has been included in the list of academic dissertations, academic councils have been formed, and specialties in theology have been accredited by the Higher Accreditation Committee.


For the start of the current academic year, the system of "spiritual and moral" education and training has been constructed from elementary school to the highest, all the way to awarding of academic degrees. Preliminary results of this work were presented at the first All-Russian Academic Conference of "Theology within the educational space of the humanities," organized with the support of the Russian Ministry of Education and Science. This was attended by the metropolitan of Tambov and other bishops of the Moscow patriarchate. "The next issue is the building up and strengthening of departments of theology," the federal minister of education and science, Olga Vasilieva, declared at the conference. She reported that in universities the number of budgeted slots in the "Theology" specialty will be increased.


On 13 August the minister visited the "Artek" camp in Crimea where she declared that there are no contradictions between a secular state and schools and the subject of the foundations of religious cultures. However, the RPTs is dissatisfied with the schools' culturological subject, and church leaders, with the support of like-minded people in the educational community, are preparing the systematic introduction of additional religious academic subjects within the framework of regional educational curricula.


Nowadays only individual voices are heard opposing the clericalization of the educational system, mainly from representatives of the natural sciences university disciplines. They fear the appearance of a "theological inquisition" of the new generation of devout officials, since the awarding of scientific degrees to clergy and church activists opens for them a path to occupying leading positions in state academic institutions. In late July, several scholars filed an appeal to the Dissertation Council and the Ministry of Education and Science, requesting the cancellation of the first defense of a kandidat's dissertation in theology in our modern history, on the basis of formal violations of procedure.


Perhaps there still will be court battles during which opponents of the clericalization of education will grasp at straws of formality. However, on the governmental level the tasks are set and the goals are determined:  let the new Russian person, educated in a system of spiritual and moral innovations, be! (tr. by PDS, posted 28 August 2017)

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