March 25, 2009

What will we do?

What indeed?

Yesterday we learned that German school kids are separated by religion. And not the interesting religions, either. You have to choose between Catholic (yawn), Protestant (really just watered-down Catholics) and Athiest.

Actually, the Athiest kids get to study ethics, which sounds kind of cool.

The kids aren't totally segregated - basically, there are two groups of Catholic kids that share learning space with either Athiests or Protestants, which we can either regard as a practical recognition that most kids happen to be Catholic or as a Catholic infiltration (since the Athiests and Protestants rarely come into contact with each other).

Supposedly in urban areas with a higher concentration of other religions they offer additional classes. Just not out here in the Catholic burbs.

What will we do? you ask.

Ralf and I discussed it during his brief stopover home between California and Ireland.

First of all, he thinks religious studies are cool and we should all be more informed about different religions because this is such an important topic for so many people.

Fair point.

And who knows, maybe if more people treated religion like an academic topic rather than a purely spiritual one, they would be less likely to elect socially intolerant fiscally irresponsible environment ravaging Republican war mongers just because the church likes their stance on gay marriage.

(I know, it's hard to get a sense of how I feel about things.)

Next I pointed out that there aren't many hours in the absurdly short German school day and I'd prefer our kids to spend that time on reading, writing, math and science and he said why don't I run for Minister of Education.

I'm pretty sure that was sarcasm, which is part of the German marital benefits package.

But then, when I broached the topic of possibly enrolling K in Protestant studies to be with Leia, he got all huffy, like putting kids into religious groups at school was my crazy idea.

Ralf (bristling with indignation): 'Are you kidding me? We're not signing K up for some religion we have nothing to do with just so she can be with some kid she probably won't even like next year!'

No argument from me. I mean, OK, I did make some snarky comments about how I'm not the German here but we were basically in agreement by this point.

Anyway, the upshot is that we'll be going with Ethical (Athiest) studies next year and it remains to be seen if Celia's Catholic mom will throw her lot in with Leia (who is Protestant) or with us.

And Tina the Athiest.


  1. Good heavens!! Dividing classes up according to religion? For goodness sake - the kids haven't had a chance to choose yet??!! This kind of bizarre segregation would be illegal over here in Sweden... Kids learn tolerance and about all the different kinds of religion...

    Still - studying Ethics is great! There should definitely be time for this in every school schedule.

  2. Here in the north, they don't divide the grade school kids up according to religion, because there are just too many "other" kids. Also, our Bundesland is not Catholic, they have more "watered down" or less stringent idea of what religion class should be about when the kids are young. Which turns out to be learning a little about all religions and a lot about ethics.

    When they went to high school we strongly encouraged my son to chose philosophy instead of religion. The idea being he was a very technology nerd type of person and we thought a lot of the big questions in the future will have to be answered philosophically and not only scientifically. My daughter, on the other hand, opted for taking the Protestant religion class, even though none of her family is Protestant. Both kids seemed to have benefited with their choice and haven't started growing extra limbs... so, here's hoping your choice is a good one.

  3. I won't go all ballistic again about the separation based on religious reasons. It does bother me, but that's not the point of today's post. I think that you made the most logical decision. If you followed a religion, it would be reasonable to enroll your kid in the according class, but now that you don't - well, if Leia and K really like each other, they will remain friends. One can never tell in such ages who long "friendships" will last.

    I hope everything works out for you and K in the end.

    And yes, I took ethical classes (not at school, but at university, still...) - they rock.

  4. Do they have a sarcasm class? Now that would have some value.

  5. I wanna take classes with Tina, the Atheist. Can you sign me up, too?

  6. Where do they stick those crazy Mormons?

  7. I really dislike that word "Atheist." Why not call the class "Non-Religious." In my opinion, this would certainly indicate no participation in any religion or religious services whether it be Catholic, Protestant, Muslim or whatever without sounding vulgar.
    To me the word Atheist has the same connotation as such words as riots, protests, vagueness, vileness.

  8. But what about Jews and Muslems? Does that just fall into other or atheist?

  9. I've heard that in more urban areas where there are more kids of different religions they offer additional classes but out here in the burbs those kids probably have to sign up for ethics.

  10. I have been finding myself thinking that the education system needs an overhaul and I don't even have to choose a religion for my kids. That would push me toward getting involved for sure. Since I have already been in trouble with the kinder moms for suggesting we not spam everyone with "reply all" emails for such trivial things as "I'll bring some raisins on thursday" I am guessing it would go terribly badly for my kids and for me.

  11. Here, non-religion is ethical studies (in Berlin). Are you sure that is called atheist in your region?

  12. Whose ethics are they teaching? Not the socially intolerant fiscally irresponsible environment ravaging Republican war mongers? Please no!

  13. It is ethical studies but geared toward non-religious kids. 'Athiest' was my word, might not have been the best one since I assume it also applies to Jewish, Mormon and Muslim kids who don't want Catholic or Protestant training. The Germans call the class for these kids 'Ethics'.

  14. In the elementary school my kids went to they were only divided up Katholisch/Evangelisch-Lutherisch when they had religion class, otherwise they were together. We are "Konfessionslos" but I put my kids in the Protestant religion class because the alternative was being sent home like the Muslim kids. They thought it was boring but it didn't kill them either. Ethics classes (called Werte und Normen) don't start until high school in our state. I happen to think that religious instruction doesn't belong in schools and that all kids should attend an ethics course together, but that's just me and we must do as the Romans, er, Germans do, I guess. :-)


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