Saturday, July 2, 2011
Urgent...We Need Religious Education in School Curriculum
Do you have any problem if the school curriculum demands your ward to be initiated to/in holy texts? You may be a Hindu by birth and you send your child to a missionary school (thinking that missionary schools are better than both the private and public schools) and in that school your child is taught to read Holy Bible every day. You are not offended. You are happy because you think your child is ‘disciplined’ to be god fearing and good. Besides, you believe that Christianity is not an eastern religion (though its origin is closer to east than to west) and anything that comes from west is good. So no problem if your child is initiated into Christianity through regular reading of Bible.
Today, the BJP led Madhya Pradesh Government decides to include Gita Sara (the Essence of Bhagavat Gita) in the school curriculum. That means, for any child who goes to any government school (or any school) in the state it becomes mandatory to learn the essence of Bhagavat Gita, one of the philosophical texts that speaks of Dharma, Artha, Karma and Moksha (Ethics, Economics, Duty and Deliverance respectively) and also a text that has been incorporated into the fluidity of Hinduism as a religion. Shouldn’t such a move be welcomed?
But we will not and need not welcome such a move not because Gita is a Hindu text but because it is introduced by a government which has strong affiliations with the fundamentalist streams of Hinduism. When philosophical texts are forced on to children, we call it indoctrination of ideology at very young age itself. When such texts are naturally taught to children, we call it education. Here the problem is that we have a nation with a syndrome called ‘sentiments hurtitis’ (a term coined by artist Subodh Kerkar). Our sentiments get easily hurt and then we react without reason or rhyme. In the case of Gita introduction to school curriculum too has met with such hue and cry from different sections of the society.
Now the other religious groups have come up to say that the government should introduce ‘their’ holy texts also into the curriculum. The BJP Chief Minister of the state has agreed to review the situation and to consider including other holy texts also in the school curriculum. Both these moves, this one sided introduction of a holy text by a government and then conceding to the pressures of different tactic as well as religious groups, are fallacious in a democratic country like India. Anything forced on to the kids will produce opposite results, if not today tomorrow.
Instead, to improve the moral and philosophical fabric of our society, my opinion is that from primary school onwards there should be a regular subject and devoted periods and examinations for world religions and philosophies. This paper should introduce children to Hinduism, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, Confusian thinking, Zen Buddhism, Islam, Christianity including pagan and tribal cultures of devotion. There should be an expert committee that is neutral, academic and objective appointed to prepare this curriculum, which should range from standard five to standard twelve. Examinations should be on grading basis and it should be said clearly that the marks/grades earned on this subject WILL NOT be a criteria to get admission to any advanced education or career.
Then the children would get the basics of all religions and their underlying philosophies. Intelligent students (most of the students are intelligent) as they grow up would realize the basis of all religions is one and the same. At an advanced level they should be introduced to atheism and agnosticism. There would be a day when they realize that like Coke and Pepsi and McDonalds (or in that case Saravana Bhavan Masala Dosa), religions too have the same taste anywhere in the world and they derive the same result from the people; happiness and money. But there is a small difference; religions and their philosophies could also give fundamental values about life, which is same in every religion, which perhaps Pepsi and Coke don’t give (they may say ‘bleed blue’. But you bleed your pocket).
It is very important to respect the essence of all religions. To respect other religions one should know at least one of them well and the rest in its essentials. So it is important to have religious philosophical studies in the school level. But it is not the job of a BJP government to implement it unilaterally on students/people. There should be national level changes in the curriculum.
If not, you will not be able to teach economics, commerce and any other discipline because in any field of knowledge, there are texts that are considered to be holy and religious. And modern day knowledge systems are as good as religions. Just think of Marxism and the pantheon it has or think of the Coporate religion and the godheads it has created. Religion cannot be done away with overnight. It is like atheism that cannot just get rid of god and his related world (heaven) views.
So let’s us say together, holy shit, let’s have some religious education not only for the kids but also for the parents.
PS: After writing this, on a second reading I realized that basically there is no difference between Pepsi and Coke; both are bottled and fizzed contaminated water.