In an interview with the Spanish weekly “Alba,” the secretary general of the Spanish Federation of Religious Teachers, Father Manuel de Castro, admitted for the first time that the controversial course Education for Citizenship should be kept out of all schools and he asked officials to accept the objections of parents who do not want their kids to be taught “moral principles they do not share.”
After months of refusing to take a position on the issue, Father de Castro told Alba, “I would like to see public schools honor the objections and the ministry reverse its direction.”
Although he said the Ministry of Education’s decision was “acceptable,” he explained that some books in the course are not, and that he understood the objections of many parents. He asked that their objections be honored.
According to Father de Castro, the controversy has sprung up over “the attempt to introduce moral principles that are not shared” by parents of the students, and added that Education for Citizenship is the secular opposite of the times in which “Catholic morality was imposed even through law.”
“Education for Citizenship could be considered an imposition,” the priest said. Asked why he did not state such a position before, he responded that he was never asked the question.
Father de Castro said he believes all schools, Catholic and public, should educate students in values, “but in values that are shared and accepted by all.” Schools should not teach moral principles that fly in the face of parents’ values.
“For us ideally the issue of the family should have been left out; we would not be arguing now if that were the case,” he said, adding that “neither the State nor any other person can use schools to impose values that are not shared.”
Alba noted this was the first time Father de Castro had openly spoken about the course. “He justifies his silence by saying that after negotiating over the text with the ministry and—in his opinion—having had a significant portion of his objections taken into account, he is not able to openly criticize the course. In addition, Father de Castro acknowledges that conscientious objection has been a controversial subject even in the Federation, a state entity with 16 delegates and ‘distinct sensibilities’.”
In preparation for the beginning of the new school year, 31 associations promoting conscientious objection to the course have put together a guide for parents whose children will be subjected to the material in 2007-2008.
The guide instructs parents in their rights and explains how to present their objections to school officials. It tells them that once they have presented their objections in writing, they should not allow their children to attend the class. It also instructs them in what to do if school officials do not honor their request to have their children be exempted from the class.