Benito Aláez Corral is a Proffessor from University of Oviedo who teaches matters such as Fundamental Rights and Multiculturalism, reason for which he has been invited to share his knowledge and give a Lecture on Religious Teaching and Symbols at schools. He delighted us with a very broad and interesting lecture which discussed important themes regarding these topics but most of it gave an interesting point of taking into account the context in such things in order to not misunderstand or underestimate the relevance of it. Also he stressed the fact that when talking about these matters there is special need in education, promotion of knowledge and understanding in order to comprehend what it is about and also to not react incorrectly out of a misunderstanding.
PREGUNTA: What is your general opinion about OVIMun?
RESPUESTA: I think it’s great and it’s a pity that these initiatives are not taken into account and don’t count for regular curriculum because the way you work shows how you acquire abilities and competences which is the main issue of most of the subjects of the curriculum in many, special social sciences, degrees. so I think it should be different.
P: How much do you think confessional religious teaching shapes personality of students?
R: I teach a course on Fundamental Rights and Multiculturalism in the University of Oviedo (in English) and I have a lot of foreign students as you were here today and when I ask this most students from Germany, they couldn’t understand that those courses which they attended were actually confessional religious courses because the way they lived the experience was very neutral, and then I ask them to look for the legal background, and when you look at that it shows that this courses were of confessional nature. What has to be taught in these courses are the doctrine and the creed and belief of every denomination: the protestant, the catholic, the islamic, etc. What happens in practice is difficult to assess, and for someone my age, more difficult. My experience is that I didn’t attend religious classes, I attended Ethics classes. They were not at the same time, so when the religious class was taking place I could leave or stay, it was up to me. What I saw when I decided to stay was a young and very active priest who involved students into debates regarding very actual and important topics such as divorce, abortion or euthanasia. And only at the very end he would explain the position of the catholic church, not through the discussion to not influence the pupil’s opinion. This is probably an exceptional case and not a very common one, and I don’t know what happens in practise.
P: Do you think there is a positive aspect that teachers study religious studies in University or afterwards or such related topics in order to improve their CV’s even if they don’t practice such activities?
R: If they study religious history with no confessional issue it can be helpful although it depends on the context. For instance we have a case in Spain about teaching canonical law in faculties, it was a compulsory course when I studied although now it’s elective. Somebody complained, and the answer to that was that there are a lot of catholics and many of them marry according to the canonical law so maybe to have a law practitioner with knowledge about canonical law could be interesting and instructive. However nowadays people don’t marry to the canonical law or don’t marry at all, so it could be interesting but not necessary. Again it depends on the context.
P: Do you think pupils can grow out of interest because they are educated into religion in a way that they feel like they are being forced to shape their personalities for attending a religious school?
R: I think there is an influence, of course, but I don’t think it is primarily from a religious nature, I think it is moral nature. I can tell how the average of students coming from private schools think about certain topics and it is not corresponding to the religious nature of those schools but much more to the right wing type of moral supposed to be taught there and the environment. Because I think it is not only about the education in that school but also from the social and family environment but this has an influence of course.