Aside

the first step to learning is to realise that you don’t know….

23 Oct

While I was in my religious phase, I had it brainwashed into me; the very proof that the secular system doesn’t work is within the education system. Look at ‘our’ kids and ‘their kids’. Ours are tzanua (modest), respectful of teachers and parents and our schools aren’t zoos like those you find over there. It’s almost convincing. I was going to give my kids the opportunity to bypass all of the mess I had to wade my way through in my secular childhood. I was going to be giving my kids God, ready-wrapped on a plate!

It still wasn’t all that long ago, when I witnessed the foul language of two kids who couldn’t have been more than second grade, that I questioned whether, by pulling my kids out of a religious system, I was really doing them a favour or not.

Well, secular kids may look scary and act scary sometimes. They may be exposed, depending on what is going on in the house, to things I’d rather not expose my kids to ’till later. They may be sucked in by the ‘instant’ world of mass media. But there is one critical point. No secular child is brought up with a feeling of being ‘right’ or of knowing the answers. Their ignorance can be a blessing. It can move them on to the pathway of critical thought, of questioning and of finding their own individual connection to God. And this connection will come without fear or guilt.

The politeness and respectfulness from the religious is based upon the innate fear of societal rejection. It can be compared to behavioural codes in ‘exclusive’ societies. The urge to act out has not left. But it’s worse than that. For these children are given a one-dimensional image of who God is and how to serve him. The service of God may crush their inner selves, but the fear of rejection will reinforce a process of self-denial.

And thus, organizations are mushrooming in the religious world to ‘help’; schools for ‘off the derech’ kids, religious therapists, gurus, rehabs and quacks who are making their living out of the religious malaise. And of course, the symptoms are being dealt with but the illness itself isn’t.

Pulling away from the feeling that you have all the answers, or worse, that some religious authority does is not an easy process. But once you do, then you can get yourself a real education.

 

 

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2 Responses to “the first step to learning is to realise that you don’t know….”

  1. Eddie October 23, 2012 at 9:22 pm #

    I couldn’t agree more. This is something I struggle with. My kids go to a religious school (or at least a modern orthodox school), but I’m a little on the fence whether I’m doing them a favor. On the one hand, I want them to know about their religious faith and that they have a history. I also want them to be able to learn Hebrew and experience some Aramaic so that they can learn from original source texts. On the other hand, I worry about the element of brain-washing and the element of control in the form of social conformity.

    I think I’m less worried about the ‘influence of others’ present in secular schools, even though I know that secular schools will often have some problems that aren’t ideal. I know that some people are definitely trying to shield their kids from the influence of others, by sending their kids to religious schools. However, There is a side that can argue there is an advantage to being exposed to the influence of others (as nicely expressed by ISOD). When isolated in religious schools, apart from being programmed to believe you have all the answers (which causes friction with those who think differently), this robs a person of intellectual honesty, which in my opinion can be very healing (e.g. the ability to question teachings and to accept yourself with compassion and be able to speak the truth — for example, being able to say “I just don’t understand this (teaching x), I’m trying to understand it. God, I want to be doing the right thing… but this religious teaching is just not making sense to me. It seems to be contradicted by experience y (or teaching z). Please help me make sense of it.”. Apart from (in my opinion) increased health for the individual that they can practice managing ambiguity without needing to feel guilt and stress about it, exposure to other people from secular schools, can also be helpful (in my opinion) in creating more solidarity amongst people across the religious/secular spectrum (acknowledging that really we are all in the same boat trying to make sense of the world around us, the human condition, and the question of how we should best lead our lives). I feel that exposure to other people and other opinions is actually a crucial step in allowing us to respect and appreciate others more and move towards better societies and a better functioning, more peaceful, world.

    • insearchofdivinity October 24, 2012 at 8:54 pm #

      I agree. One of the most beautiful things about kids is their unquenchable curiosity. If they are ‘shut off’ to the ‘other’ by some pre-programmed moral righteousness then that curiosity is killed stone dead.
      There are many types of religious schools and some are like, hey we are similar to the secular school down the street but we just do our ‘religious thing’ at the same time. I don’t have such a problem with that, as long as the standards of the school aren’t imposed on the home. Unfortunately nowadays, there is a spirit of restlessness that means that was acceptable and good thirty years ago isn’t ‘religious enough’ any more.
      The key is, I feel that as long as children can confront the world around them calmly and without fear, they can be raised to become adults capable of an intimate relationship with God (the rest follows suit!)
      Nice to hear from you, by the way!

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