Many of you will not like what I have to say or agree with me, and that’s alright – and many of you might already have your backs up because you have a pre-conceived notion of what I am about to say. All I ask is that you relax, and open your mind to what I have to say… To put your own beliefs aside for a minute and just try to understand this from someone else’s perspective. You don’t have to agree, but I honestly feel that there is no place for religion in schools and I would like the opportunity to explain why I feel this way…
Recently, the Johannesburg High Court in South Africa outlawed single-religion practices in public schools – and while I celebrated, many took to social media to voice their disapproval. Some of the comments I read that downright irritated the shit out of me were:
“If you take God out of schools, He will be replaced by something else and things will go wrong – and that is a scary thought”
“How will our children learn about morals and good ethics? Religion teaches good morals , teaches caring about others, sharing with others ,respecting others and temperance”
“A good day for Satanists, I bet they are all so happy now”
“If people don’t want to be part of praying during the assembly put them in another school or don’t let them go to assembly during that time. Now christianity has to keep a low profile so that other religions can have it their way?”
“How dare they dictate what we do with our religious beliefs?”
These few selected comments echoed hundreds of similar comments, and I truly don’t get it. We are not a religious family, and while we do not practice religion we make a point of it to teach our kids about all the different religions and beliefs in the world – why? One word… TOLERANCE. If I fail at everything else in life, I would succeed if I knew that I brought my kids up to be tolerant of others, to be open-minded and to love people regardless of their religion or skin colour. Our kids will be able to make an informed decision about what they believe when they are older, and we will support them with whatever they decide. Do you know how hard it is to follow through on this when your child is forced to participate in a single religion activities at schools? When they are told that Christianity is the only true religion, and that their parents will go to hell if they don’t believe in God, pray and go to church? And don’t tell me that it doesn’t happen, it’s happened to my daughter more than once. Telling a 5-year old that her parents are going to hell for not believing, or for having tattoos does not make you a crusader of Christ by the way, it makes you an asshole.
I also feel like my eyes are going to roll back in my head and I might have a seizure from the severance of said eye rolling every time someone asks how our kids will learn about morals and ethics if there is no religion taught. The whole “follow these 10 commandments or burn in hell for all eternity” is not the only way to raise good, moral and ethical children – it’s called good parenting.
Religious beliefs are a private question: schooling is a matter of public policy; the two should be kept separate. It is increasingly important that we learn to respect and show empathy toward other cultures and to understand their beliefs and ways of doing things. We live in one of the most diverse countries in the world, we need to work towards unity and the only way to do that is to truly understand and respect each other. A school is the perfect place to teach tolerance and acceptance, it was designed to be a place of teaching and learning after all.
Teach children how to think, not what to think.