Douglas Todd: Are schools pushing aboriginal, ‘Buddhist’ spirituality? | Vancouver Sun
2016/11/22 Leave a comment
Good analysis, commentary and recommendation, slightly different take to the column posted earlier (Ashley Csanady: Indigenous prayers in the classroom and all-Muslim suburbs are equally dangerous attacks on our secular society).
That being said, I am a great fan of mindfulness, as have found that useful in both my professional life (being more aware of my internal biases) and during my cancer treatments:
The aboriginal blessings and mindfulness exercises, while fine in themselves, inject a confusing shot of religion into academia, given many scholars would revolt if a university event began with prayer rooted in Christianity, Judaism or Islam.
What’s a way forward?
B.C. Supreme Court Justice Kenneth Mackenzie ruled in 1999 that public education should be “strictly secular,” which he interpreted to mean it should not show favoritism to one religion over another. Beyond that, he said, schools should be ”pluralist,” or ”inclusive in the widest sense.”
Canadian religion professor John Stackhouse believes the B.C. parents objecting to having aboriginal spirituality and mindfulness imposed on their children have a case — and that the public-school system has “crossed a line.”
Just as there is no place for the Christian practice of baptism in public schools, Stackhouse says there is no room for aboriginal smudging or Buddhist-based mindfulness. And rather than creating the awkwardness of students opting in or out, he believes educators should just not invite participation in such practices.
There is a third approach.
Like many, including myself and the B.C. Humanist Association, Stackhouse believes schools should teach far more world-religion courses, so students can learn, in age-appropriate ways, about a variety of spiritual observances and worldviews, from Catholicism to Confucianism.
That should also fit with the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which recommended doing more to educate students about aboriginal traditions.
The actual practice of such rituals, however, is probably best reserved to individuals, families and spiritual communities.