There were no gods in my school. The Union collapsed when I had to go to the 6th grade, by inertia there was the bust of Lenin in the lobby and argues over the need of wearing ties for a couple of years. But over time, Shevchenko took place of the school deities. His portrait hung in a corner, was ‘dressed’ into embroidered rolls, some kind of awful pretentious quotations were put beneath. At times of some pedagogical crises, the teachers urged us, shameless and despicable, to repent before Taras Hryhorovych.
Taras Hryhorovych seemed scary with his frowning eyebrows, mustache and hat. Sometimes it seemed that right from that portrait and rolls he would bark at me: “Aren’t you ashamed, Borysenko?!”
Subsequently, Ivan Franko, Lesya Ukrainka and some very famous local literary figures, whom no one seemed to know, were added to that school iconostasis. In my school, the gods were perhaps only some strange cultists, who spoke with terrible accent, urged us to repentance and eternal life, and gave out tiny books of Psalms printed on thin tissue paper. High school students liked those Psalms, they exchanged them for chewing gums. Probably, what they liked the most from those little books was paper.
Time was passing, I have never returned to that school. It was a big surprise for me to find out that schools became more like some closed-type institutions. Large bright lobbies were crossed by fences, partitions and guards’ booths who make sure that none of the participants of the educational process break through the perimeter by any chance. And also, the Gods settled in the school. On the place where once a bust of Lenin and a bas-relief of the Karla and Marla duet (of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels) were put, iconostasis was hung. Where the rules of conduct or appearance requirements once hung, according to which wearing earrings automatically turned the student into a prostitute – Our Father or 10 Commandments were hung instead. Once even in the chemistry room, next to the periodic table of chemical elements, I saw an icon of the Mother of God with embroidered rolls and an icon-lamp. And beneath was some quote of Mendeleev, and if would not look carefully, it seemed that the Mother of God says to the pupils: “There is no talent, neither genius without hard work.”
At some point, instead of party functionaries and representatives of the administration, the priests, clerics, and the rest of the clergy of different types came to schools for any, even the smallest holiday. At some point, they also became participants of the educational process, although there was no word about them in the law. At some point, Christianity was not just a phenomenon in society, but even a separate subject at the school where pupils were even taught how to repent for themselves and for parents and got marks for that. They also promised fires of hell to every 7-year-old sinner. At some point, the word of the Constitution, the word of the law on education, even the word of the Criminal Code has become less valuable than the word of the principal or the priest who was the principal’s advisor. At some point, Gods entered the Ministry of Education and SCIENCE firmly and securely. Just imagine, at the Ministry, for example, there is still no council of scientists, but there is a council of churchmen.
When I first protested the dominance of Gods at school, they began to ask why I was so strongly against this and for some reason the Article 35 of the Constitution, which states about the separation of church and state was not an argument. And for some reason, no one is confused by the fact that people without any knowledge in psychology or pedagogy, people who are not participants of the educational process are engaged in the education and training of children, and if something critical happens, they will not be responsible for any moral or physical impact on children.
The thesis of the clergy council of the MES states about the spiritual education of students. And it would seem that there is nothing wrong with this, but no one can explain the basic foundations of this spiritual education, let alone its qualitative criteria. And for someone, it is spiritual enough to respect the person regardless of what faith he professes, what color his skin is, whom he loves, or where he came from. And for some, spirituality is limited to strict dogmas that cannot fit any human diversity. On the other hand, for someone, it is spiritual enough to love and respect his partner, husband or wife, and to someone spirituality claims: “let the wife be afraid of her husband”. So which spirituality do churchmen aim to teach at schools?
On the other hand, the church council notes that it should regulate equal access to spiritual education of representatives of different faiths and religions. And maybe it would be good, but among the representatives of this council, there are a dozen of different denominations and semi-cultist directions of Christianity. Islam and Judaism are only represented by two lines; Buddhists, Krishnas, Hindus, etc. are not even mentioned. Equality?
As for the basics of Christian ethics at schools, I still could not find examples of a mufti or a rabbi coming to a public school for educational hours, or children going to the Basics of Muslim Ethics, although the programs for them seem to be also provided, but in fact… No. This subject is still a variable component, that is, the subject, which can be provided on the parents’ request. That is, not when the school principal decided to give extra hours to a very faithful teacher, or a close priest, but when parents indicated in the questionnaire that they want their children to not have an extra hour of a foreign language or some other subject, but rather Christian ethics. Even when out of 30 students, 29 parents expressed their willingness to have the Basics of Christian ethics taught to their children, and one pupil refused, then they should be given an opportunity not to attend the subject. Honestly, how many people were informed about this possibility? How many were asked about their choice? How many were given the opportunity to consciously choose one or another spiritual education? Is secular education fully provided at school?
Once, a very good priest told me while explaining the crisis of faith, and the crisis of relations between humanity and the church, that people transfer the concept of their own conscience into the plane of the responsibility of the church too often, and the Church breaks into the plane of manipulation too often. That’s it…
Nowadays, I am absolutely not against religious education. Moreover, the churches got the right to open their own schools. So, let them open schools at the expense of their communities, teach and raise their flock, this is their legitimate right. And the state municipal school has to be separated from the church. And if the gym closes by the will of the principal to open a chapel there, he should be ready to open a mosque in the dining hall and a synagogue in the assembly hall, and proclaim the school “the home of all the churches”, because it will not be a school anymore. If they hang the Mother of God in the lobby, they should put Buddha next to her. If the principal cannot provide an educational hour without a priest, then he should be ready to bring a mufti, a rabbi, Lama, and then he should admit to himself honestly if he serves the gods or rather children.