Friday, 2 December 2011

Should religious training be done at home, at school or at a religious facility?

There appears to be less people going to church nowadays than years in the past. I don’t know if it is because people don’t have the time to attend church or whether they have simply lost interest in participating in religious functions or activities. I remember going to church as a child in the 1940s and for the most part, the churches were almost filled to the brim so to speak. Nowadays, a church minister is lucky if he gets more than twenty people sitting in the pews and they for the most part are elderly people.

Church attendance in Canada is declining rapidly. Atheism is rising. Christian moral values are being replaced by secular ones. Canada is no longer solely a Christian nation and Canadian Christians may eventually become a minority.

Is it possible that many people have lost interest in the teachings of the Christian bible? Is it because the church condemned homosexual conduct, abortions and divorces and for these reasons, they have alienated the younger generation.

This article isn’t going to deal with why church attendance is on the decline but rather whether or not religion should be taught at school, at home or only in a church etc.

A problem surfaced at the Marc Garneau Collegiate Institute in Toronto recently. A few dozen interested parties attended a discussion on religious accommodation within the Toronto District School Board. This may have the perverse effect of reigniting a debate that had died down since the summer, when a tiny group of angry Hindus objected to Muslim prayer services being conducted on Friday afternoons in the cafeteria at Valley Park Middle School, just across the street from Garneau C.I.

A lot of very reasonable people, not just militant secularists and feminists, were profoundly unsettled by the idea of congregational prayer being held during class time in a public school and by the gender segregation that this entails. The most interesting revelation at this event was how easily the school came to the decision to bring Friday prayers in-house, and how easily this could have been avoided if anyone in charge shared these concerns.

Jim Spyropoulos, who is the TDSB’s coordinating superintendent, inclusive schools, student, parent and community, laid out the now-familiar rationale: Students were leaving school to go to mosque on Fridays. Some weren’t making it there, and some weren’t making it back — and were a disruption to the other students if they did return. And what if something happened on the journey? Valley Park is at a busy corner. Six lanes of traffic cross four. Would the school be held civilly liable if they were injured crossing the road?

A retired teacher argued this isn’t any of the school’s business — Friday prayers are just like 300 kids having dentist appointments at the same time, and it’s up to the parents to get them there and back. But allowances have always been made to the public school calendar for the faithful children it inconveniences. It’s perfectly logical to treat Friday prayers like a religious holiday that comes once a week.
Islamophobes and secularist jihadis aside, this would address everyone’s concerns. It would ensure the public school day remains free of religious proselytization and the perceived negatives that go with it. And it would eliminate the question of choice.

When I went to school as a child and later as a teenager, we always said the Lord’s Prayer before the first class of the day but that has changed and rightly so because many of the students in today’s schools are not Christians. And when I went to a Catholic residential school for a school year, I don’t remember being taught religion as part of the curriculum.

Studies have shown that parents are able to provide children with some of the most comprehensive and persuasive forms of teaching. This is due to a wide variety of factors that cannot be attained at school. Among them are the fact that children love and trust their parents and the fact that children spend a great deal more time with their parents (and have since an early age) than they do with virtually any other person. Because of this, it's crucial that you don't just leave the instruction on tolerance to a teacher or another figure in your child's life; you are the best source of information for your own child.

My mother never taught me religion when I was at home but she did send me to Sunday school when I was a young child and later when I went to church as a member of a choir, I learned a fair amount about Jesus and his disciples and even about those persons named in the Old Testament.

I do not believe that it is a public school’s place to facilitate children’s attendance at religious services — and that if anything, it is private family's business. The very idea of a student feeling pressure to fulfill an unwanted religious obligation on public school property, during the school day, is outrageous.

The Guidelines and Procedures for the Accommodation of Religious Requirements stipulates that “where possible, schools should allocate space for congregational prayer.” It doesn’t say that it is absolutely necessary but rather if it at all possible.

Public schools don’t belong to any one group of parents and schools—they belong to everyone. But if a school wishes to set aside a room in which students can gather to pray as a group or as an individual, I don’t see a problem with that providing that the room is used only for prayer and not for teaching religion or as a gab fest.
Devout Muslims pray at least five times a day. Such a room as describe in the previous paragraph should also be available to Muslim students and any other students of other religions.

Now should we as a society expect the parents of children to teach religion in their homes? That is placing demands upon parents that we shouldn’t be placing on them. Further, how can we expect parents who are not really that religious teaching their own children religion?

There are many families however that are very religious and the parents of such families are more than qualified to teach their children religion. They should take care however not to overdue it. Too much religion can be counter productive and alienating your children just so that you can jam religion down your children’s throats will invariably backfire when they are old enough to leave home.

I think that a parent should answer questions their children give them with respect to religion. For example, suppose your child is brought up as a Christian and she has a friend who is Jewish and she wants to know what the difference is between the two religions. You could tell her that Jews and Christians are alike because they believe in the very same God. This will immediately establish a similarity in her young impressionable mind. This element alone can often dispel any myths the child may have heard, and impede any thoughts of prejudice. Then you could go on to explain that while the Jews believed Jesus lived and was a great teacher, they don't believe as Christians do that he was the son of God.

Jehovah's Witnesses do not celebrate holidays, including Christmas and even birthdays. Many Jehovah's Witnesses keep their children home from school on the day of a holiday party or celebration. This may confuse a Christian child.

Teach your child to respect these children's religion as well. Their beliefs honor the principals of their religion, and it is only respectful to be considerate of these beliefs. Again, encourage your children to ask questions of their friends, although emphasize that they should use a positive tone when asking the questions.

Many parents overlook the importance of teaching religious tolerance at home. In today's world, where children are exposed to a variety of different backgrounds, belief systems and cultures, it's more important than ever that kids grow up learning to be tolerant and accepting the difference of faiths of other people.

Tolerance of this kind begins at home, and it's up to you as a parent to help teach your child the proper behavior in this respect.

Studies have shown that parents are able to provide children with some of the most comprehensive and persuasive teaching. This is due to a wide variety of factors that cannot be attained at school. Among them are the fact that children love and trust their parents and the fact that children spend a great deal more time with their parents (and have since an early age) than they do with virtually any other person.

If parents feel uneasy about teaching their children various aspects of their religion, they should send them to Sunday school if they are Christians, to temples if they are Hindus or Sikhs or mosques if they are Muslims and synagogues if they are Jewish. Those are the places where the children will get a good education about their religions.

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