The Center for Civil Courage started in April 2013 its project ‘Freethought Academy’ which presents to elementary school children humanist and feminist lectures and workshops. Since we are freethinkers, we are alarmed by the rigid religious worldwide spread of views that influence our children too. Thus we have decided to give the children the right tools in the form of humanist workshops.

Context: We are alarmed by dogmatic religious worldviews that influence our children in Croatia. The imposition of religious ideology is systematically implemented in all social aspects and especially within the educational system, which stresses the importance of the question of opinion-forming among children in respect to women, human rights, or science. Thus we have decided to give the children the right tools in the form of freethinking and feminist workshops. 

Aims: Our workshops promote open discussion and learning with the application of humanist and feminist thought. The workshops encourage skeptical thinking and, consequently, exploration and critical evaluation of existing knowledge while encouraging children to have confidence in their own reasoning. Children are also introduced to human rights struggle and heritage thus developing their compassion and solidarity with the needs and rights of other, especially underprivileged members of society. This approach encourages coexistence in diversity through accepting others, even though they may be different.

Description: Our workshops include participants of elementary school age and younger, with the intention to offer and explain topics that are related to issues of civil courage, humanism, secularism, feminism, activism, science, human rights, and arts. Experiences from previous workshops show that the need for our workshops was not only recognized by non-religious families but also by religious parents who do not want their children to be deprived of an education that includes humanist and feminist values.

Annually we organized ca. 12 workshops, six of which are devoted to feminism and contemporary women’s rights issues, and their social equality. One of our urgent workshops is dedicated to violence in schools, whose roots are also in increasing violence against women and failure to decisively condemn and prevent such violence from all social levels. Workshops are held once a month (two times if necessary) and last three hours. They consist of two parts. In the first part of a workshop, teachers explain and present the topic to participants, while in the second part participants ask questions and discuss while expressing their opinions and positions formulated in a humanist manner as a result of critical evaluation of the topic.

Beneficiaries: Applying good pedagogy based on critical opinion and distinction between scientific approach and religious one, our workshops are currently the only available informal type of education that prevents any indoctrination and provides education on life with acceptance of differences and indifferences, freely and without submission of any members of society.

Strengthening children’s identity and, most importantly, safe and free space is an important part of the workshop in which children may freely and without fear express their opinions and experiences from school. Another aim is strengthening participants in their relations to others and understanding the needs of others, making children conscious in respect to human rights, and teaching them how to stand up for their and the rights of others.