Today I went to a Te Whariki workshop for six hours. Te Whariki is the national NZ curriculum for children from birth to the start of school.
New Zealand is a bi-cultural country and has a legal responsibility to incorporate Maori language, culture, beliefs and values into the education setting.
It also includes its religion.
I find this surprising and very hard for me to accept.
The woman who taught the workshop is half Maori and during her introduction she talked about how she is able to see through the veil that separates the living world from the non-living world. She also talked about how her family line descends from the Egyptian gods.
I thought those statements were absolutely absurd. I thought the statements were absurd because I don’t, for one second, believe any of it. But those are MY beliefs and I won’t go too far into that here.
I also thought it was absurd because this was a workshop about educational curriculum for early childhood and suddenly she’s talking about how she can see ghosts and speaking of Egyptian gods as if their existence is verifiable fact. It made her lose some credibility in my eyes.
Te Whariki talks about how it is the kaiako’s (teacher’s) responsibility to make sure that children are healthy in “mind, body, and spirit”. I agree with mind and body but to me spirit is an abstract and intangible thing. I feel that the word “spiritual” is used quite often in substitute of “religious” because people feel it is less threatening and more acceptable.
I have found again and again that the Maori say they are not a religious people, they are a spiritual people, and it is not only okay, but legally mandated, to have their spiritualism taught in the educational setting because it is non-secular.
At my preschool we sing a karakia, a type of thank you, before morning tea, lunch, and afternoon tea. One of our karakia has no mention of anything religious, it thanks the earth and the sea for the bounty of the food and thanks the person who has prepared the food which is about to be eaten. But there are other karakia which thank Ranginui, the primordial sky father, and Ikatere, the father of all sea creatures. This to me is not spiritual, it is religious.
It makes me uncomfortable.
I fully agree with demarginalizing the Maori people. They are the indigenous people of New Zealand and they’ve been subjected to racism and pushed aside for so many years. They grossly over represent crime statistics because they’ve been marginalized for so long.
I understand the need to teach their culture and their language in schools.
But I wish there was a way to separate the culture from the religion and it doesn’t seem like there is. This woman who taught the workshop today even stated at the beginning that to embrace Maori culture is to embrace every single aspect and that there is just no way to separate any one thing out.
She also talked about how she was asked to be the Maori advocate of an adolescent LGBTQ center in the Waitakere region. She worked with lesbian Maori teens who were struggling with their sexuality. She said she told these teenagers that one of the Maori goddesses, I can’t remember her name, was born of two women so these young girls should be proud of their sexuality and embrace it. She said the young women were so empowered by learning this about one of their goddesses.
Again…in my humble opinion….this is absurd. Not that these girls should embrace their sexuality, because I believe they should, and I truly hope they find a way to be able to do that. But because I don’t believe, not even a little bit, that learning that a Maori goddess was born of two women would help them to accept their sexuality.
But that’s just me. That’s my BELIEFS.
Why is it okay…no, not okay….EXPECTED….of me to talk to these children about the Sky Father, yet it is deemed completely unacceptable for me to talk to them about why I cannot come to terms nor accept the God presented in the Bible because I find that God to be an incredibly finite human construct which to me is not at all credible.
The one belief I have is that there is something out there, and who knows what it is, because the vastness of what is beyond our universe is so incredible that I don’t believe the human mind can fully comprehend it.
This makes me an agnostic.
And it is NOT acceptable for me talk about this to children, right? Nor do I have any desire to.
In fact, as a teacher, I feel it is partially my responsibility to create an environment which is completely empty of BELIEFS. I should be teaching basic human values, fostering respect and kindness, instilling a love of learning and a knowledge of HOW to learn in children.
I work hard to try to keep them from growing up into ignorant and shitty assholes.
That’s my responsibility.