of marriage, a school project at a German school has gotten a bitter
aftertaste, say students and educators involved. The Stuttgarter Zeitung
reported that students at Renninger High School created their own "state"
with the help of their teachers. They named their creation Maredivia, and
were justly proud of it. Maredivia was a multifaceted and all-inclusive
sort of utopia in the students' eyes until one mother expressed concerns
about the "sanctity of marriage," which resulted in homosexuality being
banned from their project, which the teens are unable to comprehend.
As an exercise in the principles of democracy which has earned praise from
parents, teachers and students alike, Maredivia had taken months to
complete. Three short days before the end of the school year, the twelfth
graders were ready: A parliament was formed, laws were made and a national
government was established. Students and teachers worked at "businesses"
on an equal footing, reaching a "turnover" of 15,000 Euro.
It was second nature to the founders that Maredivia should naturally also
have matrimonial ceremonies. Some of the twelfth graders wanted to be
married as homosexual couples - but here is where freedom in Maredivia
reached a sudden dead-end.
The mother of one student, who works as a verger with a local Catholic
priest, took umbrage at the idea of having to explain the twelfth graders'
actions to curious students in lower grades. Her fears centered on the
"sanctity of marriage" as interpreted by the Catholic Church, and she felt
the matter serious enough to call it to the attention of Renningen’s
mayor, Wolfgang Faisst, in an e-mail.
The mayor, in turn, feared an outcry from other concerned parents and
forwarded the mother’s concerns on to the high school principal, Werner
Elflein, with a message attached which urged him to intervene. Elflein,
also fearful of possible fall-out from the project, strongly urged project
coordinators to refrain from allowing gay marriages.
Maredivia, as a result, is not the free democratic utopia it was supposed
"We wanted to not endanger the project and keep it running", says student
Christopher Glück, but he's angry about the marriage ban. "I refuse to
accept that existing [German] law is not recognized" because of pressure
from the mayor, the principal and a single mother. Glück and many of his
classmates are bitterly disappointed and see the behavior of the mayor and
their principal as unjustified interference in their democracy project.
Laura Auhorn, one of the main student project leaders, finds the banning
of gay marriages absurd: "We thought that perhaps there might be problems
with Maredivian laws, but not with German federal law." After all, federal
legislation establishing civil partnerships for homosexual couples was
enacted in Germany in 2001. Nonetheless, the pressure from the mother,
mayor and principal meant that just those should be left out of the
Renninger high school students’ democracy project.
As it turns out, the mayor’s and principal’s fear of protests was not
unfounded. "I was concerned about public reaction and the school’s
reputation," says principal Elflein. He says he felt there were signs that
there might be problems with some parents, since, as he puts it, in the
matter of homosexual partnerships public opinion is not yet as advanced as
the law. And so he is quite astonished that there are protests, but that
they are coming from an altogether different corner than he had expected.
The issue of homosexuality at Renninger High School is not a new one. Last
summer, another mother had publicly protested that an openly gay teacher
at the school was selected as a chaperone for a camp excursion her son’s
class was scheduled to go on. Tino Miksche, the teacher in question, is
now furious that homosexuality is again being dredged up as a concern by a
solitary mother. He is also worried that as a result, his students may be
pushed into feeling that homosexuality is a topic which should be avoided,
even though, as a matter of simple statistics, between two and eight
percent of the teachers and students at Renninger High School are gay.
"Generally, though, the climate is tolerant in Renningen", says Miksche.
Erwin Eisenhardt, parental advisor to the school until last year, says
Renningen is actually quite worldly, despite its smallish size. He says
that the mother’s concerns about gay marriages in Maredivia are not shared
by the majority in town.
Nonetheless, says Inge Bücker, the current acting parental advisor at the
High School, the issue of homosexuality should be discussed again. "Some
parents feel disturbed by it", she says.
Students agree and say they will have words with the school’s
administration after the summer break. "We want to clarify exactly what
went down," says Glück. Mayor Faisst is also to take part in that
discussion and has already indicated his willingness to participate in
order to eliminate doubts as to the reasons behind his actions.
"My only concern was proportionality," he says, adding that his goal was
only to "ensure that the whole project was also educationally guided," and
that there was never any intent on his part to prohibit anything.
Copyright: Gay Republic Daily (2007). The article may be republished free
of charge under the condition that the source is indicated with a
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