bee in my bonnet

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I have the proverbial bee in my bonnet…and  i guess it is time to try and blog about it. A couple of weeks ago, I was talking to a 5 yr old boy when he sneezed…without thinking twice, i said “bless you!” and without batting an eyelid or wasting a moment in though, the little boy looked at me and declared that he did not believe in my gods or anyone else’s but his own. I was too surprised to respond…i did not think that saying ‘bless you’ had religious connotations or would at any level offend a 5 year old boy. I dwelt upon it for a bit and then got busy with other stuff.

Fast forward to today when I was at a school and was told that the kids could not learn christmas carols because the school stayed separate from religion. We were talking about Jingle Bells and Rudolph the reindeer. For whatever reason this whole scenario has been bothering me. The school gives vacations for christmas and dassera and diwali and eid but does not talk about any of the above in the school?

In a time fraught with religious clashes, hatred, lack of understanding and acceptance of the other, I would imagine that the school would be a safe space where one could broach the topic of the other without any indoctrination..a place where exposure, exploration, understanding and tolerance would be possible to work on. Religion is all around us…from what we eat and what we wear to how we talk and how we react and respond to things. I am no devout follower of a specific God but I believe there is a greater power there and while I may not understand it I believe God exists. You can call him what you like and find him where you want. By that same token, I totally respect people who don’t believe in him.

But manifestations of religion and belief are all around us…the temple bells and the call of prayers from the mosque both drift into my balcony every morning. The almost innocuous looking cross that my cleaning lady wears…my husband praying at the altar in the morning. The beggar on the street who blesses you…the colourful brightly lit streets during diwali, the caroling around Christmas…how can you escape it? And why must you? We are in a secular country and a country of many religious beliefs. Looking at those beliefs and their manifestations in a safe and constructive environment is, in my opinion, dearly needed. It can help build understanding and respect. I don’t think the school should teach religion..that is for each family and child to choose or not choose…it is a personal choice…But, that does not mean one continues as if none of it exists at all. I see no harm in kids celebrating different festivals together..seeing similarities and understanding each other better.

I graduated from a protestant school…we sang hymns every morning at assembly and learned christmas carols and as far as i can remember there wasn’t a single protestant or catholic kid in my class. I walked out with a better understanding of crtain beliefs and way of life and I feel I am richer for it if anything.

Any thoughts on this? I would love some inputs because for some reason this very small thing has destabilized me..it has been bothering me through the day…Should schools celebrate religious festivals? Should the school try to expose children to other ways of life that the ones that the kids come in knowing? (once again, I am not in favor of the school ‘teaching religion’)

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About myfourboysandme

Mom - a word that defines me... I smell of oats, johnson's and home baked cookies I am pink, purple, green and orange and so is the floor my kids color on. Flour on my clothes and a brush in my pocket, my glasses bent out of shape and smudged with tiny fingerprints. I can't remember the date but i know almost 40 pictures books by heart. I wake up humming 'wheels on the bus'and i talk with my fingers and eyes and mouth. My bag carries band aids, napkins, wipes, crayons, papers, candy and sometimes my wallet. I know all the parks and very few of the restaurants in my neighborhood. Most of my shopping is diapers, books and paints My phd certificate lies in a roll, the frame now contains an abstract work of art by two year olds and i am prouder of that piece of paper. mom - a word that defines me!

4 responses »

  1. Heyyy…
    I understand your predicament.
    I believe, schools should very neutrally and happily expose children to all religions and their festivals… Without being non- judgemental.
    There is NO better of instilling tolerance and acceptance in our kids…
    Religious festivals and celebrations aren’t just a way of getting closer to God, but a way bringing human beings together..

  2. Most schools talk of the significance of the festivals and do some lip service type function. The trouble with half information is just this – secularism ends being no information, discussion and exploration about all religions. Blogged about it, made up a poster for our home and stocked up on books like Mary Pope Osborne’s One World Many Religions and other series that speak of what the tenets of religions are. We discuss it at home.

    I think schools respond like this to parents, who end up being offended by many, many tiny things. When things work out, stars align and enough parents of a similar wavelength get together in a school, more is possible. Have faced a case of some karadi rhymes apparently being specific to one religion.

    • Yeah…we discuss this stuff at home too…i try in my way to help my boys look at and understand the world around them. They have questions…why does K not eat pork? why does someone else wear a turban? Why is it a holiday today? And I feel that their questions merit answers. These are actually wonderful opportunities for thought and discussion and if they can help my kids become more sensitive and caring towards others, if it helps them understand, appreciate and respect others, if it helps them see how we are all indeed quite the same at the end of the day…i think it will go a long long way. I would love for the school to partner on this remarkable journey…i don’t think that not addressing something makes it disappear

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