Friday, May 30, 2008

Unschooling? Faith schooling?

It seems that home-schooling is a major thing in the U.S. at the moment. I can see why. More on that later. And on another front, in at least three countries, there's a clash between the secular position of schools or universities, and the stance taken by people who stand by their faith.
In Turkey, according to the news I heard, universities used to forbid the wearing of the Islamic woman's headscarf. Because the university was secular, religious observance was excluded from it. The result was some women did not feel able to attend university. They would not give up what they considered their duty to their faith.
In France, as well as Australia, there is debate about the right of people to wear such things as a Crucifix, the Islamic woman's headscarf and other regalia that go with practicing a faith. The Jewish male skullcap and the Sikh man's turban might be other cases in point.
Some years ago the Royal Canadian Mounted Police agreed that Sikh officers should be allowed to wear a turban instead of the usual Mountie hat. That admitedly was a rule for adults. But it makes a point. A man practicing the Sikh faith feels obliged to wear the turban. To forbid that is requiring him to deny his faith.
In schools, the French government tried preventing Muslim girls wearing their headscarves to school. The same argument was used in New South Wales, Australia. The argument is, the school is a secular institution and not a place for advocating a religion or faith.
We might have come to a point where it is difficult to have a school system that suits all members of a society. This could be why there is a growth in home-schooling in the Western world. Apart from that, it explains why there is more interest in faith based schools: Christian, both Protestant and Catholic; Jewish, Moslem, and in one place I know of, Hare Krishna.
Critics of this complain that it causes division in society. Their view is that a universal school system that all children attend will bring them together on a common ground.
The idea of social unity and peace, is great. But having a one-size-fits-all school system is harder than it looks.
If a person is seriously committed to something, if they have real convictions, then those beliefs go with them everywhere, 24/7. You can't tell someone to leave their religious or spiritual beliefs outside the school, the way you leave a vehicle outside or take a raincoat off when you go into a place. It doesn't work that way.
Use another example. If a person is vegetarian, they are vegetarian all the time and should not be asked to forget the fact and eat meat because they're in a place where meet is served. If a person is non-racist, they're non-racist all the time. You can't expect them to take part in a Ku Klux Klan Rally, or a White Supremacy parade, or for that matter a Black Panthers demonstration. They reject racism and can't be expected to forget the fact in order to do what someone else wants them to. And the same exactly goes for practicing a faith. If a person, being an Orthodox Jew, wears the yarmulka as part of following their faith, you can't tell them "Yes, we respect your religion but the school is secular. Please don't wear it to school." That is telling them to pretend they are not Orthodox Jewish while at school. The same applies to a Moslem wearing a headscarf. To tell them that you respect their right to their religion is contradicted as soon if you tell them not to wear the headscarf. And a Christian (such as myself) is a Christian all the time. If I feel the leading to wear a crucifix or the fish symbol, as part of showing who I am, then to tell me not to is denying me the right to identify with my faith. More importantly, if I'm a Christian, then I'm a Christian all the time and I can't teach things that I honestly believe are counter-Christian. I may accept that other people can say them, but I can't. For example, if I'm involved in any personal development teaching, and the curriculum says that sexual experimentation with multiple partners is a good thing, then I can't teach it. I taught English and History. Some books set for student reading try to teach the reader things that I cannot go along with. So I may not forbid them to be said, but I can't be ordered to say them myself. I can't stop someone else saying it, but I won't say it - so I can't do what a secular school might expect me to. Likewise, when I taught history, it would not be honest for me to say that I believed evolution was the only explanation for human origins. In all honesty, my beliefs include the notion of God creating all things, and I'd have to say that. That's not the same as forcing it on people. It's just telling them what the different explanations are, so that they are fully informed. And Christian students should not be expected to say that they believe in evolution just because the secular science curriculum offers no other explanation.
So we end up wondering if there can be a school system equally suitable for all. It needs to be remembered, the secular school system says that it does not not teach any particular religious faith. That is NOT the same as suppressing expressions faith. And if you tell a student or teacher to keep their beliefs private, you have to remember that their beliefs might stop them from doing certain things the school says to: so they cannot be kept private. They come out in your actions.
Home schooling seems to have become a common thing in the U.S., and it may be growing in Australia, precisely because secular schools are not 'user friendly' to quite a lot of people. If a society REALLY respects freedom of thought, then it must accept that some of its members do not feel the public school system works for them. Come to that, for some people schools are not good places at all. When you have a large number of kids having to share rooms and be in close proximity, some of them feel intimidated or crowded by the others, especially by the dominant ones. We might see a time when going to school is not what everybody does; and the school that some kids do go to might be faith based. The public school as we know it might gradually become a minority thing. It's not hard to understand why.


LisaM said...

this is really interesting - and I appreciate your thoughts here.

Unveiled Hope said...

I'm homeschooled myself, and I like it except for the fact that you have to teach yourself, you don't have a teacher helping you. I memorize things by hearing, so it's really hard for me to remember things only by reading them, which homeschoolers usually have to do.

Deep thoughts... said...

We homeschooled our son through high school (in two years) because the public schools would not give him the attention he needed.

Homeschooling in the U.S. is growing, but many non-believers want to have it done away with. I think it's the State of California appeals court that recently upheld a very old law (from 1953?) that required parents to receive teacher certification in order to homeschool their children. That seems to defeat the purpose(?).

Also, interesting discussion about religious observance. The prevention of any religious observance in public school...or in the general public for that ridiculous.

One more comment and I'll quit! Belief in Evolution requires just as much, if not more, faith. So it's ridiculous to think that public schools can "force" the secular theory of how we came to be here down the throats of those of us who believe in Creation; but we can be restricted in offering our counter viewpoint. Enough said. (Please forgive my long-winded-ness).

By the way, I just ordered Outcast of Skagary. Can't wait to read it!

Nicki said...

You are right. Homeschooling is becoming more of the "norm" here in America. I have brought this topic up many times on my blog debating as to whether or not I could do it. There's a lot to weigh in the decision. But public schools are changing a lot and i agree with your thoughts on this!