What is there to discuss about secular education?
I would be happy for religion to be taught in the best way possible in schools, by the most compatible educators in the right way, instead of it being taught in a foolish way in homes and consumed away at dervish lodges. But while the main problem is how we are going to teach science and through which methods, today, the expression, “women’s obedience to her husband is a religious service,” is being added to school books.
We are in fifth grade in elementary school, at a preparation course for the Anatolian high school entrance exams.
In lectures, we are solving tests, having a discussion on the test answers during the breaks, and sometimes having an argument saying, “mine is right.” In the next class, the right answers are announced. The person who has the right answer makes fun of the other who have gotten it wrong.
One question came up. Even if I do not remember it word by word, it was somewhat like this: “On which of the following principles [or manner] is the Turkish Republic based?”
In fact, it was a somewhat loaded and difficult question. Especially for an 11-year-old child. Because my father was a lawyer, I knew that the Turkish Republic meant the state, and not the people, and one of the basic qualities of the state was its secularism. I immediately circled answer “D.” The answers to the questions were collected and the bell rang. During the break, as always, I had a discussion on which was the right answer with my friend. She said “Islam,” whereas I said “secularism.”
When the answers were announced, I grinned with a smile full of pride and defiance. And to that, she nodded her head with the expression, “you won.” The interesting detail was that my friend was a Jew.
That question always comes to my mind these days when the discussion revolves around amazingly if secular education should be “secular or not.”
I also remember my classes during high school on the education of religion and ethics, in which real Islam, morality in Islam, basic religious services and the philosophy behind them were taught, and our incredible teacher Ms. Sevgül who taught those lectures, a graduate of the faculty of theology. I send my regards to her from here…
I do not know what my Jewish friend, with whom I had the discussion on the question of secularism, thinks about a question in the newly prepared elementary school curriculum, which said “Elhamdülillah [Praise to Allah] is uttered after having a meal” as it is a question related completely to daily life based on individual preferences. If she has a kid, the kid must be in the last year of elementary school, meaning at an age to whom the question “Elhamdülillah” was asked.
But, our issue is not this, in fact.
It has probably been understood that I am not against religion classes, as long as they are not compulsory for those who do not feel themselves to be Sunni Muslims. In fact, my family had found it very befitting and right in my period. “The children should learn from the state’s proper curriculum [about religion], instead of from here or there, silly resources, a hodja or sheikh,” they had said.
However, a totally different picture emerges at the point we are at right now. What bothers me is not the existence of religion classes or the increase in their hours, but the decrease in science classes, the change in their content, the exclusion of certain issues from the curriculum and their quality declining. The decrease in the quality of education and teachers in the topics that will advance the country, that will provide employment, bring light to brains and establish a future; the teachers’ being accepted into employment not with fierce exams, but with interviews. It is in itself shocking to discuss these in 2017!
What is direr, are the tragic attempts to manipulate the history to exclude the founding father of the Turkish Republic, as well as our recent history, from the curriculum.
What worries me is, just one generation after which the state’s basic qualities were taught and asked as an exam question, with 11-year-old Turkish girls’ fathers saying, “you should know this,” come the course books saying, “women’s obedience to their husband is a religious service,” and teaching this to Turkish girls!
Otherwise, I would be personally glad if our religion is taught in a proper and detailed way with educated teachers. But, in the year 2017, it is completely shocking on its own to be discussing whether education should be secular or religious!
Then, let all the schools be theological schools!