Now that the twins are going to be starting playschool already, I have to face something I haven’t really given much thought to: religion. Apparently, even these neighbourhood-type playschools teach kids to pray.
Pray? Seriously?? Two-year-olds???
I hadn’t expected to have to teach my kids anything about religion at this age.. Not for a few years yet. But playschools teach prayers, what do you do?
I’m sure there are many who’d argue that it’s never too early to teach kids about god… But my problem is that prayers aren’t about god, not in this format. They’re just word strung together by someone else and chanted or sung by everyone together in public. It’s not as if the kids even know what they’re saying.
When I teach my kids about praying, I’d like them to learn what I believe – that praying is something that can (or even should) be done in private, maybe even in silence, and always with utter honesty and intimacy and sincerity – not using pre-formulated words uttered by rote along with hundreds of others.
I’d like them to learn about god in terms of morals, values, and a guiding philosophy of life, not about the rules and rituals of this religion, or that, or another. I’d like them to know that there are many different religions, but that what matters is not the declaration of belonging to a religion and living by its rules and rituals, but instead practicing “goodness” (for want of a better word) in whatever they do.
Obviously, these are not lessons for a two-year-old, or even a four- or six-year-old.
I know that as they grow, they will meet various religions along the way, and that’s fine. I’m not trying to insulate them from religion per se. What I don’t like is that they should have to “learn” any particular religion in school. Why? I’m not sending them to a seminary (if that’s the word I want). Why can’t normal primary education be divorced from religious education?
Of course, now that I come to think of this whole matter, religion was a part of the schools I went to as well. One was a Convent (need I say more?); then there was a school intended for children of Naval staff (I wasn’t; don’t even ask) and a DAV school (Dayanand Anglo Vedic – there’s a lot of philosophy, history and context to that, but I don’t honestly have a clue), both of which defaulted to Hindu prayers at assembly. Why the naval school should offer up Hindu prayers defeats me, but I suppose they thought they couldn’t just have the school band play merry marching tunes every morning.
So I shouldn’t be surprised that the twins are going to be learning “prayers” along with their colours and numbers and nursery rhymes. The best I can do is to take it as another kind of nursery rhyme… and let them get acquainted with my beliefs when the time comes (and also with Amit’s, which is that there is no god)… and hope that they choose whatever system works best for them.
But really – why do schools teach prayers? And why to two-year-olds? And how can they assume (other than those schools that, like Convents, statedly adhere to a particular religion) that Hindu prayers are best suited to all their students? I mean we do have people of other religions in this country, so if you’re not really affiliated to a particular religion, shouldn’t you just stay away from the whole thing?