Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Me, a hypocrite?

The school year has begun for us. Not much has changed for Rosie, our 2nd grader. She has the same teacher in the same classroom with the same locker. She was also elected class president for the second year in a row. For Lizzie, our 4th grader, the whole world has changed. She has to change classrooms for every subject and has to adapt to the expectations of new and different teachers. Both of them have schedules more complicated than my university schedule, but that's how it is in Poland. One starts at 8:00 and finishes about noon, while the other one starts at noon and finishes after 4:00. Then the next day they switch.

Lizzie, the 4th grader, starts her second foreign language this year. English is mandatory twice a week, and we had a choice between French and German for the second second-language. Come to think of it, the school chose German for us, but theoretically we had a choice. German lessons are in fact German lesson because they have it once a week for 45 minutes, and in the first lesson they did not learn a single word in German in the whole 45 minutes.

Catechism, called "Religia", as always is an optional class twice a week. My girls don't attend as we are not Catholic so they spend time in the day room or in the library with the couple other kids who don't attend. Ethics is theoretically on offer at our school, but even if you declare in June that you'd like your kid to attend Ethics, the school will not arrange it. If they do, it'll start in November, not September. It will probably be at 7:00 in the morning or after 4:00 in the afternoon. It may also take place in another school or may possibly be taught by a nun. True story.

From the whisperings in the hall at school, some parents are not happy with the catechism situation at school. My only interest in catechism in school is that my children don't go, so I offered no comment to the conversation. Often parents who don't send their kids to catechism are quite critical of the parents who do. I'm not. Ok, I'm a little critical but of the school not necessarily the parents. When the school principal and teachers said that we would not have swimming lessons this year claiming a lack of money or that Lizzie wouldn't have a locker until the budget came in, then I was critical. Well, Misiu was critical and counter-claimed that the money was there. It's just spent on things that the school thinks and apparently parents think are more important such as catechism twice a week. Speech therapy? Forget about it. 

My children do not attend catechism not because I am a non-conformist, although I am. It's because I'm not a hypocrite. I know that some parents send their kids even when they themselves have stopped practicing that religion and even when one or both parents are non-believers. They're hypocrites. It is true, but I understand them just the same. 

The cost of not being a hypocrite can be very high. Some people are not willing to pay the price so to speak or allow their children to pay it. The cost for my children is hour after hour, year after year spent in the day room at school. The cost for us and them is no extended family, no aunts and uncles, no grandparents, no birthday wishes, no weekend visits. The choice to not be hypocrites was ours, the decision to exclude us from the family was theirs. It's extremely difficult to make a decision to raise your children according to your beliefs when you know that may mean a childhood without grandparents, without family. We decided that we would not buckle under the pressure. I wouldn't change a thing, but at the same time I understand the folks who are not brave enough to try. I wish they'd join me though. Maybe it'd be a little bit easier for all of us.


Paulina said...

Widzę, że nic się nie zmieniło od lat. W moim przypadku zarówno w podstawówce i w gimnazjum jeśli ktoś nie chodził na religię, to siedział w bibliotece. Dopiero w liceum, kiedy połowa klasy nie chodziła na religię, zorganizowano w tym czasie lekcje etyki.

Naprawdę nie rozumiem, dlaczego lekcje religii odbywają się w szkołach, kosztem innych przedmiotów, a nie w przyparafialnych szkółkach niedzielnych, jak to było praktykowane daaawno temu. Ale cóż, to jest Polska, ponoć katolicki kraj.

Kasia Adamska said...

Our school claims ethics will start as soon as they figure out how to group the kids who don't attend catechism (we filed the statement last week), what time would fit their schedules, and where to put them. At least they've made it the last lesson of the day (both times), so you can just pick them up early, unless you work and they stay in the afterschool program anyways. My kid is one of the two, out of 25, who chose ethics.

Chris said...

I too don't understand why catechism has to be taught at public school. My good friend said to me, "I know it's wrong, but it's just so convenient." Our school today is unrecognizable from the school last year. No mass to start the year, no prayer in morning assembly, no Jesus welcoming us to school, no signing out from catechism. That was our first goal - to get our school to follow the law concerning religion in school as it is currently formulated. I'm not patting myself on the back yet. The school could and probably will do something unacceptable for us such as mandatory John Paul II assembly with praying as they have done in past years. However I am proud of the success we've had so far. Next item on the agenda is to return catechism and the funding of catechism to the Catholic Church, but I'm not alone in that fight. The seemingly smaller task of putting Religia in the schedule as the first or last lesson is impossible. I mean they'll try to do it for your group if you go to school in June and demand, demand, demand, but that doesn't really solve anything long term. The same with Ethics. Ethics (the subject) is not an alternative to Religion (the subject) in my eyes. The opposite of Religia is no Religia.

fiona_apple said...

Chris, just to let you know what it looks like here in WAW where Filip has just started school. We chose “rejonówka” – our district school. Nothing fancy, the school still smells of the previous era but it is relatively small (for Warsaw, that is). Last year the kiddos from all grades had Ethics (I checked their schedules to be sure, hehe) and during the intro meeting in spring I heard that this year would be the same.

I was furious when I checked the schedules right before the year started and saw Religia but no Ethics. Fortunately, this was the very first thing the teacher mentioned when we gathered in the classroom on the first day. Less fortunately, the question who would be attending Religia and who would not was connected with information that the school would be going to mass together three days later. Not to mention that Religia kicked-off on 2nd Sep. Breathe in… Breathe out… Small steps… So Ethics will start next week and in the meantime Filip and two of his class mates go to Świetlica during Religia time. Filip does not mind at all, he knows the two boys and it is not an issue whatsoever. But in principle it just feels really wrong. In my ideal world Religia would be moved to churches (of whatever denomination) and Ethics would be for all kids. I have a dream…

So I’ve got a question – you mention that you lobbied for mass not to take place and it does not any more. What did you do? Could you write more? Here or email:

Fiona, also not a hypocrite.

fiona_apple said...

PS. Whenever I read about the reaction of your Polish family, it just drives me up the roof. It is so mafia-like – to punish kids for the decisions of their parents. Wrrrrrgh! I’ve been really lucky here – both my parents and parents-in-law had a hard time accepting the fact we never baptized the Kiddos and some of our other decisions but Marcin and I were the only ones who really knew that. The Kiddos are loved, even revered :) and are lucky to be enjoying a vast extended family.

Chris said...

Fiona- I've sent you my strategic plan via e-mail. If you don't see it, please check your spam. Waiting for your thoughts on the topic.

Justyna Lomot said...

First, WOW. how do you teach German and don't teach anything during the first 45 min?! unbelievable.
Second, I am sorry your family could not accept your and your husband decisions about your kids. But, I am not surprised. Knowing my roots, my family would probably do the same. Fortunately, for me, I didn't have to make these decisions, as we both are Catholics. But, it is much MUCH easier to be a Catholic in US, then in Poland...

Chris said...

Thanks for the kind words. We didn't suspect even for a minute that my husband's family would react the way they did. It was hard at first, but we've come to terms with it. My husband said the same thing about being Catholic in the U.S. We even went to the church fair and played roulette with the priest last time we were there.

Anonymous said...

for me is quite easy - i choosed jewish primary (in wroclaw we have two). much better level, a lot of interesting classes and activities, much more foreigners kids, nice people.
i am not jew, to be clear. i am atheist but only in jewish school they respect and tolerant my point of view
have a great weekend!


Anonymous said...

I wish I could say something profound about your in-laws, and if not profound, then at least helpful or soothing. I know that it's not easy to be in your position. And that i'ts probably hurtful and enormously disappointing for you to know that your daughters don't have any loving grandparents nearby. But I also believe that, deep down, they are the biggest losers in this drama they've created. Your little nuclear family will be just fine without them, and you will raise two strong, clear-headed independent young women. Finally, here's some verse from a great American poet, Philip Larkin. It applies to your in-laws (and their parents.)

Hugs from Denver,

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.

But they were fucked up in their turn
By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another's throats.

Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don't have any kids yourself.

Chris said...

m - We considered the Jewish school and another private school as well when our school suggested we might be happier in another school. Despite the less-than-friendly words, we decided to fight it out instead. The girls go to their regional school, and they like it. We can walk there in 15 minutes. We couldn't let them push us out because they aren't able to follow the law.

Dorota - Thanks for the poem. I've always said my goal as a parent is to not fuck the kids up...too much.

Aleksandra said...

I have just discovered your blog and I see there will be a lot to read, a lot of meaningful stuff. This post is great. I could't agree more.
Cheers from a Pole in Maryland (where the challenges of the public school are different, perhaps less annoying)

Chris said...

Welcome Aleksandra and thanks for joining us. I taught high school in Maryland and we definitely had some challenges at our school, but religion wasn't one of them. Happy reading!

Tracy Leszczynski said...

So terribly sad... that primary school has probably had the incredible blessing of Mass for its children and teachers for many generations...the grace pouring out on everyone, atheists included! My dear, if you only knew the implications of what your actions have wrought in stopping Mass being said you would very much regret it....''Father forgive her, she knows not what she has done'' springs to mind!

Chris said...

Tracy Leszczynski - Do not suggest that I my life decisions are made unaware or that they are less valuable than yours. Church is for Mass. School is for learning. The Mass still takes place.

Tracy Leszczynski said...

You have missed my you actually understand what takes place during Holy Mass? I think not. If you did you wouldn't care where it took fact, if you had an inkling what it is, you would be inviting the priest to your home to have it in your livingroom! :)

Chris said...

Tracy Leszczynski- I caught your point. I am aware of what takes place in "Holy Mass". It is for Catholics in places where they gather and yes that may be in someone's home even their living room. A public school is not the place for it. There are students of several religions attending this school. Forcing people to participate in religious observance is in violation of the Constitution in Poland as is interfering with a parent's right to bring up their child in the religion (or lack there of) of their choice. That is the law in Poland.

I attended Mass 6 days a week for my entire education (excluding summer holidays when I attended once per week). I attended courses entitled Catechism, Religion, and Bible Studies Monday through Friday for the duration of my education. Additionally after Sunday Mass I attended Sunday school. All of these courses were taught in private school. My children attend public school. That's a difference. There is a Catholic school next door to my children's school. Parents who feel that they need more catechism and prayer than what a public may offer according to the law could send their children there. That's what my parents did.

I suspect that you were expecting something different from me. You can see, I have more than an inkling. However I don't believe in any God(s). I get the feeling that you think non-believers are terrible people. It's not the rule that living without God makes someone terrible or less worthy of respect or that someone with a devout belief is automatically a better person. I'm a great person. I do a lot of wonderful things for the world I live in. And I don't believe in God. Those are independent statements.

Tracy Leszczynski said...

I don't know if you are a good person or a bad person, most people are well intentioned in my experience, it's not for me to judge (you may have picked up in the course of your Catholic formation experience that it is fundamental to the faith to leave judgement to God, we are encouraged to judge the sin, not the sinner :) you will love that I am sure...) however, it is very difficult for those of us who know and love God and have experienced the transformative grace and unspeakable joy and hope that come from having a living relationship with Jesus to see your actions in ridding your school of His, no doubt long-standing, presence (in a predominantly Catholic country) as terribly wrong and misguided. In saying that, I see your point...if it is a mixed religion public school and there are alternatives in the community, of course people should not be forced to take part (even if we know they would be better off with God than without Him!). Again, you may have had Catholic formation on some level, however you do not know or accept God or the church's teaching therefore it is impossible for you to have an inkling of what Holy Mass is about, it is all make believe as far as you are concerned.... As for the other post re your support for abortion...something to ponder.....would the babies being torn apart limb from limb in their mothers' wombs without even an anaesthetic consider you a great person, a wonderful person, for supporting their mothers' right to choose? perhaps not.

Chris said...

Tracy Leszczynski- You may not realize this but the tone of your comment is dripping with judgement despite your assurance that it is not your place to judge.

We agree on one thing, I do believe that God and religious practices are made up. I don't spout those views to religious people, imploring them to see the light or telling them they would be better off. I feel it is each person's decision alone. For example I'm a mother and I love being a mother so much that I would want everyone to experience it. However I have two friends who have never wanted to become mothers. I would never criticize them for this choice in their lives. I would never presume to know what is better for them. From your comments you presume to know what is better for me. You do not.

About our school, our children were forced to attend catechism 18 times over several years. It's not by accident. The nun blocked the door when they tried to exit. The principal suggested our children wear markings such as arm bands so it would be easier to identify them so they would not accidentally be engaged in catechism. The nun hung a poster on the wall in the hall next to first grade which explained that unicorns are a symbol of group sex and should be avoided. What has and has not changed since my interventions over the years? Catechism is still taught in public schools in Poland. As a taxpayer I still have to pay for it. Mass is no longer held on school grounds. The school masses still take place but at church. Attendance is now voluntary, not mandatory. Religious posters do not hang in public spaces. Catechism is still offered at school twice a week. My children are no longer forced to attend. The nun was made to apologize to all the parents of the children forced to attend. It's not just us. In one of my children's class 1/3 of the kids do not attend. They go to the library or sit in the hall when the library is closed.

About the abortion law in Poland, I understand stand that you are for a total ban. Is that correct? I don't share you beliefs. I don't enjoy your sarcasm about me being a wonderful person.

Tracy Leszczynski said...

Above meant to say, cannot see your actions as anything but terribly wrong. Don't think I judged you, perhaps your actions and ideology... If you were standing in a nice cosy room with plenty food and drink and all you needed and your neighbours were outside in the dark, cold and hungry, surely you would want them to join you... such is the perspective of those who know the Good Lord and have tasted how good He is, so yes, sorry to sound arrogant but we do know what is best for our fellow man. Having been in the dark myself, believe me, I know it is better to be with God.However I defend your right not to believe. God Himself has given us freewill, how could we force others to is hard to stomach the secularist agenda however when one knows the truth. I was not consciously trying to be sarcastic re abortion, just using your own doubt it was a bit of a painful reflection. The truth hurts they say. Of course I want all abortion banned....the not quite physically or mentally perfect and progeny of rape are still human beings worthy of love just like you and me.

Chris said...

Your condemnation as well as your approval mean nothing to me. Your comments have caused no painful reflections as you stated. My position stands and has not been made in haste. Again you presume you are better than me. Your comments are full of judgment despite your claims otherwise, You do not know what is best for others. I doubt the sincerity of your claim to defend my rights.

And that's it.

Tracy Leszczynski said...

No, I am definitely not better, I just try and love my neighbour as myself...that includes defending the unborn and trying to speak the truth to hardened hearts. Check out the tone of your blog my dear...often a bit less than charitable I have found! Adios

Chris said...

My heart is not hardened.Your truth is not mine. The tone of my blog is not uncharitable.