Reformation History course versus Religion course? - ATILLA YAYLA

Reformation History course versus Religion course?

I have received several objections and criticisms concerning my article on the campaign, which was launched by the Association for Liberal Thinking to ban the History of Revolution and Reformation class from the school curriculum in Turkey. Most of these views actually reflect useless anger and aggression. Only a few of them have ideas that are worth considering.

Some of the objections rely on the concern that the banishment of this class will rob us of the opportunity to learn our history. It is clear that our new generations should learn history. The campaign, in fact, does not want to prevent students from learning history. Rather, it proposes a history class, which will include a wider time line and one that will not be transformed into an ideological indoctrination. Therefore, this objection is redundant and invalid. The current format of the History of Reformation classes are not informing students, but rather conditioning them to prune their ability of reasoning and questioning.

Some of the objections have a different type of frame. The proponents of these particular objections argue that the IT class is not the only problem of our education system. For example, there is a mandatory religion class problem, too. And for the sake of consistency, in addition to the IT class, the same people must demand that the mandatory religion class also be banned.

It''s evident that the education of religion in Turkey has multi-layered aspects. As a matter of fact, this topic has been debated for decades. However, the IT class is not an alternative to the religion class. If someone wants one of the two to be banned, it does not mean that he or she must necessarily demand the other to be banned, too. Since we are pursuing a right for choice and freedom, a liberating and broadening step in one of the two may facilitate to take a step for the other, too.

Also, we should not mix the ongoing campaigns of common struggle with only one-sided ones. As their natural course, campaigns have to identify narrow objectives. No campaign can be conducted if it includes all the objectives. Therefore, it is an insufficient and unreasonable excuse to object that the campaign is led against the IT class and not the religion class. It is also a highly popularized approach, which reflects a generalizing, reactionary mode in certain circles.

While this perspective can easily be categorized in terms of abstract principles, it portrays a revolutionary and a maximalist paradigm which assumes that history, sociology and psychology have no significance.

However, this is not the way life carries on. The healthiest and permanent betterment does not occur in a sudden moment, but in gradual steps. Given the education system in our country, it''s obvious that the major obstacle against the improvement of the freedom of choice in education from primary school to university life is the Kemalist content.

There is an important difference between the IT and religion class. While the former is an ideological product and imposed on the society hierarchically, the latter is a demand coming from the base. Therefore, the former lacks legitimacy unlike the other. However, this should not mean to defend the case that religion class can overlook the multi-religious identity and thus be reduced to a single religious teaching. In this context, for example, a clear violation of human rights is having kids of Alevi parents be subjected to Sunni religious education or the kids of atheist parents being subjected to religious education.

The regulation of the religious education is not an easy thing unlike what is assumed. Years ago, I partook in extensive research on the religious education in the world. We examined the way that the religious education is given in many countries. For that reason, I am very much aware of the relevant sources and the religious education models in the world. There is, in fact, no model that can please everyone.

The basic issue is whether religious education will be considered as a public service given by the state or not. The answer to this question will also determine the model to be selected. However, the answer depends on the demands from the civil society, especially the one in democracy, as well as the political society. Let me put this in short.

A model is about excluding the religious education entirely from the public schools. I believe that those who object to the campaign advocate this opinion. However, if we choose this model, we should also mention an additional note: In the case, the religious education should be left to the civil society (that is religious groups, communities). I am unsure if anyone is ready for this, but I have doubts if this method will be much supported by the society unlike what is assumed.

In one of the meetings, I have gathered with the Alevi leaders. I have witnessed that a substantial amount of them were demanding to solve their problems related to the freedom of religion not through a separation from the state, but through the integration into the state. I have also realized that they either considered it as a preference or an obligation.

If the regulation of the religious education will be preferred as a public service, the crucial point is that the religious education should not be given through a single religion (or a sect) and therefore citizens wouldn''t be subjected to a negative discrimination. It is easier said than done. The problem is not solved by only accepting a principle. Principles are not applied by themselves. People apply them. Every human being or human group has a particular history, experience, social and psychological reality. No one can overlook these things. It''s not possible that way.

For those who are interested, let me say this. I am not against a campaign as follows: ''the religious education must be banned from the schools entirely and let the society take care of the religious education''. I promise that if some people come up with an idea like this, I will not argue against them saying, ''Then why does this not include education in Kurdish?'' In addition, I won''t contend that this will ''make the hand of the government stronger'' on the Kurdish question. I also won''t question anyone''s democratic integrity based on this.

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