Volume:6, Issue: 3

Dec. 15, 2014

Culture, Religion, and Education in Multicultural Environment
Tyulyaeva, Tamara I. [about]

KEYWORDS: culture, religions, dialogue, multicultural education, spiritual and moral development, values and meanings, religious cultures, national practices.
ABSTRACT: The paper reveals the author’s vision and ideas on the origin, role, and place of religion in the society, interrelation of culture phenomenon and the diverse world of religion, children and young people’s spiritual, moral and ethical development and education in the context of a crisis-time society in Russia. The author makes an attempt to briefly describe the Russian State policy, which contributes to teaching cultural social values and schools’ educational efforts to develop students who will be open to other cultures and religions.


Context. Multicultural education

The contents and quality of education largely depends on its ability to consolidate the society, to cope with and prevent an interreligious tension. To achieve this, it is necessary to help children and young people recognize the priority of human rights and freedoms, religious equality and tolerance to different points of view. Tolerance is a sign of self-confidence and awareness of one’s own principles. It is expressed through the desire to achieve mutual respect, understanding, compromise, and agreement on polar interests and viewpoints achieved without violence but mostly by means of clarification and persuasion (4).

An individual, living in the global world environment, is engaged in everyday intercultural and value-oriented dialogue with representatives of various cultures, religions, and communities, both in real life and via the Internet, TV, cinema, mass media, business, and school. Such an individual enters the world, and the world enters his/her house. Current Russian schools thereby become increasingly multicultural, and teachers of various historical, social or religion-related classes have to deal with this multicultural contingent.

Traditions of multicultural education are also gradually formed in Russian instruction theory and practice, thus calling for the launch of an intercultural and interreligious dialogue. Besides, it is necessary to consider a wide range of special features related to various cultural communities including global social, cultural and historical, ethno-religious, ethnographic, local, religious, ethno-linguistic and other aspects involved in the educational process (2). We should not forget about the overlapping of various outlooks and worldviews, different ethical and religious systems, identity forms, cultural and educational interests of diverse religious and ethnical communities including those shared by most teachers and students.

Multicultural education helps to shape a multicultural personality with such distinguishing features as:

  • Openness to the world, recognition of unconditional value of human life;
  • Understanding of everlasting value of cultural diversity in the world, country or region;
  • Tolerance and interest to representatives of different cultures;
  • Ability to overcome crisis-related and conflict situations in the school’s multicultural environment;
  • High motivation to establish contacts with representatives of another culture in order to solve common problems;
  • Ability to overcome one’s own stereotypes and prejudices, to determine one’s own self consistent identity formula; and
  • Skills in cultural creativity (personal creativity).

Multicultural competence involves an individual recognition of cultural and religious diversity, and a friendly attitude to any culture and its representatives. It means that school classes should result in acquisition of various principles: each spiritual culture has its own context and its own reasoning; neither culture nor religion may be better than others because each of them have their own values that are potentially significant for human development (3).

Religion as an object of close study and constant scientific interest

Considering the role and place in society, its influence on culture and education, religion (as one of the earliest cultural forms) largely defines a cultural image of various nations, their identity, moral settings, and spiritual values. We may say that religion makes an enormous contribution to the history of culture. A religious outlook, ritual and religious practices, moral and ethical canons influence all spheres, systems, and everyday life of the society.

It is known that myths and religious beliefs gave roots to the gradual development of all human cultures including philosophic, social, legal, moral, aesthetic and scientific conceptions, which later turned into independent areas of knowledge.

In the postindustrial, information society and, specifically, in Russia, religion reveals itself through a great number of factors and phenomena (1). First of all, religion:

  • Serves as a factor of integration, social stability and balance;
  • Is interrelated with an individual life, its conditions and nature, understanding the world, a sophisticated abstract world outlook, and language development;
  • Regulates interpersonal relations enabling one’s aspiration for spiritual creativity and spiritual search;
  • Significantly influences an individual self-awareness, feelings, emotions, legal settings and moral behavior; contributes to one’s spiritual growth (though, given certain conditions, it can hamper this growth as well);
  • Plays a special role in economic development of Russia, influences political and social life of the society (this mostly refers to the Orthodox faith); and
  • Shapes current patterns of relationships between the State and the Church in youth policy, education, social, spiritual and moral areas.

Studying historical and cultural roots of world religions within the system of education

During the last several years, Russian society has experienced one of the most dramatic turns in its history. We have completely changed our system of orientations and ideals. As a result, we can now observe enormous shifts in people’s minds. Processes currently taking place in our country are controversial. They have raised and are still raising extremely hot discussions.

But one fact is obvious – we are witnessing the revival of religious activities in modern Russia. Given the multinational nature of our country, we are fully aware of the fact that a great number of cultures coexist here, and each of them has its own religious foundation. The new generation of Russian people won’t be able to develop the country without the knowledge about religions and their role in the history of the Russian civilization.

Thus, it seems quite natural that our people are interested in studying spiritual and moral aspects of culture in general, and liberal studies in the Russian school need to extend the amount of knowledge they offer in relation to cultural roots of world religions. This necessity is currently recognized not only by the society at large but also by governmental institutions (2, 5).

Most issues of human morality were originally raised within a religious and philosophical search. Getting acquainted with the views of Christians, Buddhists, Muslims and representatives of other denominations will certainly encourage young people to think about vital problems of their own personal being. While growing, a young person faces good and evil, virtue and injustice in the world around. All this raises the need for comprehension and explanation. Studying the history of religion, young people discover the world of life-long personal moral search (1).

Taking into consideration the processes currently happening in the Russian Federation, the government supported a number of international proposals to introduce students to spiritual and moral values including religious traditions and culture which do not contradict the main principles of the state policy in education and upbringing. This found its reflection in the norms of the Russian Federation Constitution, the USSR Act On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations followed by the RSFSR Act On Freedom of Conscience and later the RF Law On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations. The RF Law On Education stipulates that education is to promote mutual understanding and cooperation between nations irrespective of their racial, national, ethnic, religious and social affiliation, to take into account diverse world views, to help students realize their right for a free choice of opinions and beliefs (Clause 4, Article 14).

The Concept of the Russian Citizen’s Moral Development and Character Education (2010), emphasizes the importance of teaching traditional Russian religions in order to familiarize students with the concepts of faith, spirituality, religious life, values of a religious outlook, and tolerance based on an interreligious dialogue. The Concept states that spiritual and moral development and character education primarily includes fundamental national values preserved in religious, social, historical, cultural and family traditions of the multinational people of Russia (2).

The task to satisfy ethno-cultural and world outlook needs of the Russian citizens and to shape spiritual and moral personality (RF Law On Education: Clause 2, Article 14) is carried out, among other measures, by offering classes in history and culture of religions in comprehensive secondary schools. Such classes may be presented in the form of special or optional disciplines as well as electives in religious or cultural studies in middle or high schools (Religions of the world, World religions, Basics of cultural studies, World civilizations, etc.) and also by introducing a mandatory class in the fourth grade entitled Basis of religious cultures and secular ethics.

Many teachers raise the question whether a school class in religions is necessary (5) since related issues are covered in history, social science, literature, and arts.

The problem of studying religion as a historical and cultural phenomenon is solved differently in different countries. Most European countries introduce students to spiritual and cultural values of traditional religions. This is recognized as a way for students and their parents to use their human rights to obtain education in accordance with the national priorities, local culture and beliefs practiced in the family. Religion is taught in various forms (including ethics) to children in most countries of the world. The experience of teaching religious subjects at school is not unique and does not contradict secular laws while the problem of studying religion is highly relevant in all nations.

The history of religious cultures is essentially the moral basis of Great morality teachers, Moses, Buddha, Christ, Muhammad, and revealed in Holy Books: the Torah, the Dhammapada, the Bible, and the Koran. Teachers should show young people the origin of such eternal truths as “thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal, love thy neighbor,” etc., and encourage a need to observe these commandments in their own lives (5). At the same time the attitude towards religion must become a personal choice, so the school class is not aimed at converting people to any particular religion.

Conclusion

The culture of world religions as a paramount social and cultural phenomenon in education and character formation serves as a foundation for teaching international and interdenominational tolerance. It helps to prevent religious and international extremism, bigotry, and xenophobia. It also contributes to a well-informed and free choice of world outlook. Respect to a different religious culture is a distinguishing trait of a well-bred individual.

School classes in history, social sciences, basics of cultural studies, and history of world religions offer unique information which provide students with wide knowledge and facts about various aspects of human outlooks; they reveal eternal spiritual, moral and ethical values which, in addition to cultural importance, contain a significant character-building potential.

References

  1. Brusentsova N.V., Ponomareva G.M.  (2006). Religija kak fenomen kul'tury. Akademicheskij vestnik (Religion as cultural phenomenon. Academic bulletin). Moscow: APKiPPRO.
  2. Daniljuk A.Ja., Kondakov A.M., Tishkov V.A.  (2010). Konceptsija duhovno-nravstvennogo razvitija i vospitanija lichnosti grazhdanina Rossii (Concept of the Russian citizen’s moral development and character education). Moscow: Prosveshcheniye.
  3. Tyulyaeva T.I. (2012). Duhovno-nravstvennoe vospitanie i izuchenie mirovyh religioznyh kul'tur v rossijskoj shkole: teoreticheskoe obosnovanie i prakticheskie reshenija (Spiritual and moral education and study of world religions in Russian schools: theoretical grounds and practical solutions). Moscow: Drofa. (Selected research papers and teaching aids, an electronic version).
  4. Tyulyaeva T.I. (2007). Istorija religij: kul'turologicheskij aspekt. Programma kursov povyshenija kvalifikacii (History of religions: a culturological aspect). Moscow.
  5. Tyulyaeva T.I. (2012). Spornyj predmet // Chelovecheskij kapital(A disputable subject). Human capital, 12.

Tyulyaeva, Tamara Ivanovna, [In Russian: Тамара Ивановна Тюляева], PhD in History, Associate Professor, Department of Methods of Teaching History, Social and Liberal Studies and Law, Academy of Professional Development and Re-Training of Educational Professionals, Moscow, Russia.

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