Friday, January 14, 2011

In my next incarnation...

My child won't study reincarnation for one month in his Honors World History class.

There's a lot of great history in India. There are the Persian and Greek Conquests. There's the Maurya Empire. There's the Gupta Empire. There's the Mughal Empire. There's the British Empire. There's Partition. There's Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharal Nehru, Indira (no relation) Gandhi, Rajiv (son of Indira) Gandhi, Janata Dal and more. Or what about Jinnah, the Khans, the Bhuttos? There's the current situation in Pakistan, which used to be part of India, and the tenuous situation in Kashmir, which is a sore point between the two. India is the most populous democracy in the world. Pakisitan is crucial to the security of Central Asia. They both have nuclear weapons.

Unfortunately, my son, who is in a ritzy private prep school since public schools in Miami are downright scary with all the violence and the abysmal test scores, learned none of those things about India and Pakistan in this class. He learned about reincarnation theory as if it was practically the sum total of Hinduism. For one month, his teacher had the students in his Honors class read articles that claimed that science was basically wrongheaded and that reincarnation could be proven. That would be articles with text like this:

"Science, developed on perceivable evidence-driven reasoning and logic, advocated that the attainment of truth is possible only with the help of material based scientific investigations and developments. Spirituality recognizes that the means of attainment of this truth lies within in the form of immortal soul, which is the Conscious Self. In other words spirituality is the science of consciousness, involving mind, body and spirit relationship. A subject of divine faith and devotion, initially, it leads to realization of ultimate unity of all beings. 
If the true meaning of science is understood – as search of truth beyond any barriers of matter and visible world, there would be no difficulty in accepting the fact that spirituality also falls in its periphery which pertains to sublime domains of realizations.... This attitude widens the scope of knowledge and search of ultimate truth through perfect integration of modern sciences and the ancient science of spirituality and religion."

~ Scientific Spirituality, at   All World Gayatri Pariwar

They spent more than a few of their 45 minutes of class times watching videos like this one,

and its second part, as if they were documentaries, depicting provable fact.

And then there were the tests, wherein my child, who arrived to me at age 8 stating that not only was there no Santa Claus, no Tooth Fairy, no Easter Bunny ("It's just parents with money!") but also no God, was asked to answer questions about what level his soul had attained in the Samsara (reincarnation) spiritual cycle. And when he chose a level of consciousness that had no soul, he was sent back to his desk and told he was wrong and to rewrite his answer.

Between the business of telling people they are wrong about their personal self-spiritual beliefs, and the business of not teaching World History, because of teaching a very slanted view of World Culture in its place, we were, to say the least, deeply troubled.

Did you learn about Buddhism and Jainism, I asked? Only as they related to reincarnation. What about Parsees, Muslims, Sikhs? "What? Who?" he responded, as if incredulous. My child, who was attending this relatively liberal Episcopal school, did not even know there were Christians in India, people! He knew that Jainists and Buddhist also believe in reincarnation, though.

In 6th grade my child won an award (only student in 6th grade to receive it) for achievement in World Cultures. He likes history and frankly, learned far more history in that class as an 11 year old than this one as a 14 year old. He loves YA fantasy books that are embroidered around history. Books like The Book Thief,  Temeraire and Bartimaeus and Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. He wanted to do well and really, even though it's not ├╝bercool to say so, he enjoys learning immensely.

We complained to the Chair of the History department at his school. After two weeks, or so he said, the gentleman finally talked to the teacher, who mysteriously had taken down her entire semester's assignments from Edline. She said that she had only taught reincarnation theory for 2-3 days. Meanwhile, my son's advisor told her advisory class that "Students don't know what they should be learning in a class. The teacher knows and students should leave curriculum decisions to the teacher."

Well, last time I checked, History was History, Religion was Religion, Culture was Culture and while there might be some intermingling in there, a month on reincarnation theory (which, I've been told the yoga-practicing teacher fervently believes in...) is not Indian History. The word proselytizing sure comes to mind instead, though.

We requested that he be switched to the other Honors World History teacher's class and the request was honored with minimal fuss, but we were also told next time to just complain to the teacher and not make such a ruckus by bothering department chairs and upper school principals and the like. Between this, and a few other charming little details like not giving students full credit for AP classes (Johnny's A in CPR class counts for more than my son's B in AP Physics or Calculus would) we are now in the process of switching my child to a whole different school for next year.

I'm hoping that, eventually, my honor student will learn more Indian and Pakistani history... For the present, any child in the 9th grade that had world history in a different class has no doubt learned a bit more than my son on the topic. But my child has learned that believing in Karma evidently doesn't keep you from being untruthful when you have to cover your ass.

© Bright Nepenthe, 2011

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