A new textbook for Ukrainian high school students “Fundamentals of the Family” is hotly debated in Ukrainian society. Parents are concerned about the authors’ position. They are storming the Ministry of Education with numerous complaints. At this time, the author of the textbook, Adrian Bukovynsky, claims that he has already trained more than 600 teachers and he wants to cover all 16,000 schools in Ukraine. Promote Ukraine asked experts for their opinion about this textbook.
This course has embarrassed society because there are norms that ensure equality in terms of religion. If we talk about the Christian component in the “Fundamentals of the Family”, then we must not forget about other religious movements. After all, they also have their own idea of ”the basics of the family”.
The author’s approach to contraception has upset a huge number of people. Because, for example, they read the following statements: “when using contraception, sexuality becomes a commodity.” The author of the textbook has a certain idea about the “calendar method”, about abortion and in general about a woman’s decision to have her own position. And a man who must ensure the fulfillment of all her dreams.
I believe that such a book can only be used outside the educational institution. After all, a huge number of experts who analyzed this textbook, noted that it does not comply with the current legislation of Ukraine and contains a subjective vision of its author.
Now the Ministry of Education and Science has officially renounced this textbook and informed that the book needs to be amended. But they do not precise: a part of the recommendations from experts will be taken into account or all of them. The author of “Fundamentals of the Family” says that some minor changes need to be made. Another huge problem is the illustrations in the textbook. Mostly during the examination the emphasis was on the text, however, the drawings must also be corrected.
In addition, to date, despite the suspension of the course, the author is still allowed to train teachers. And none of the experts checked this training program.
My position on this manual is quite clear: it is based on Article 35 of the Constitution of Ukraine, which states that “the church and religious organizations in Ukraine are separated from the state and the school is separated from the church.” And this manual contains many statements that do not correspond to the concept of secular education in secondary school and is the promotion of beliefs of a particular denomination, which is unacceptable. It would be correct to call this another course of Christian ethics, but by no means “Fundamentals of the Family.” There is another important point: the textbook is not stamped by the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine – there is only a decision of the commission, which approved the “Fundamentals of the Family” for possible use at the discretion of parents or educational institution. But it is important to know that the Ministry of Education revoked this approval last year. Now this commission has again supported the ambiguous “Fundamentals of the Family”, but with a critical clarification: only if it is republished with significant changes that will make the religious component neutral.
In general, the textbook is a reflection of a fairly conservative author’s approach to most of the course topics. This, in my opinion, leads to the fact that the textbook does not follow the principle of educational activities – the diversity and balance of information on worldview issues. This contradicts Article 6 of the Law of Ukraine “On Education” (for example, in matters of marriage and division of roles in marriage). In addition, some of the author’s statements are purely religious in nature, which, accordingly, contradicts the principle of the scientific nature of education (for example, in matters of contraception, sexual relations, and the right to abortion).
These inconsistencies in the textbook contradict the essence of the right to education. This can be read in the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights, which considered issues, in particular, the teaching of religious aspects in schools.
This course has the same problems as any denominational course. In particular, this applies to Christian ethics. In addition, it contains other provisions that cause modern person question, disagree, even anger, such as the nature of the relationship between man and woman, the patriarchal structure of the family, the absolute obedience of children, etc., which does not fit into the latest family models.
Can these views be taught in a general education school? Yes. But by law, the school is separated from the church, and therefore such knowledge cannot be obligatory, imposed on all children. Given that there are children from Christian families among students only at the request of parents (written consent).
My suggestions on where to teach the course: it must be done only voluntarily, on the basis of appropriate statements, in compliance with all the requirements of the Constitution and the Law on Freedom of Conscience.
Also in religiously oriented institutions (church schools or schools founded by a particular church) and as an alternative secular course – “History of Religions”.