Kids today are more stressed than ever before. Between high-stakes testing, overloaded schedules and diminishing free time for things like recess, what sounds like a silly concept has become a real concern. One school in Georgia thought it would do a little something about the stress level among its students and hoped that a little yoga might be just the ticket. It's not a bad idea — destressing kids means less burnt-out little ones, and when kids aren't as crispy, they do better in school.
So Bullard Elementary School in Kennesaw, Georgia, taught the students a few stretches, printed out some of those mandala coloring sheets and encouraged kids to practice mindfulness. You might be thinking, "Sounds a little crunchy, sure, but obviously whatever we're doing now isn't working, so why not try something a little New Age-y?"
Oh, you sweet summer child.
Because 'Murica, that's why. Parents with kids in that school are pissed. Because, they maintain, underneath all that Downward Dog breathe-in-breathe-out stuff, something much more insidious than preventing child-size nervous breakdowns is lurking. Kids are being taught a word, and this word will steer them off the straight and narrow and straight into a life of debauchery and paganism.
Is it the F-word? The C-word? Is it "Hail, Satan?" No, but close! It's namaste.
We're sorry to use that kind of language out of the blue, and we'll give you a moment to recover. A little deep breathing might help. But just the good, all-American kind, got it?
If parental upset over the word "namaste" leaves you scratching your head, the concerned parents of Kennesaw are more than happy to explain why both the salutation and other dark things like mandala coloring sheets are unacceptable for their kids. Their concerns range from these things being part and parcel of a religious ideology to namaste being "scary" and a chant from a "Far East mystical religion" that is a handy indoctrination tool.
And honestly, you might see where someone could get that idea. Namaste literally means "I bow to you," and it's typically done with palms pressed together. In the context of the Hindu religion, it can also be further translated to "the divine in me bows to the divine in you," an acknowledgment of a mutual soul. Dark stuff, right?
Same deal with the mandalas. They're used in some religious decoration, like Hindu rangoli depicting Hindu gods and Buddhist paintings. They even pop up in such dens of sin as pretty much every cathedral ever.
So yes, there are some religious connotations with both things, even though the kids weren't actually being taught about the connection. They definitely weren't chanting the Vedas in between snack time and silent sustained reading.
But that doesn't make the outrage surrounding them less stupid. Why? Because if there's one thing that America is really amazing at besides hot dogs and democracy, it's taking things from other cultures and religions, secularizing the crap out of them and then repackaging them as adult coloring books, sweaty yoga and color runs. So by the time those kids got a hold of namaste and mandalas, they were no more religious than the Easter Bunny.
But let's stick that to the side for a moment.
Who cares if your child learns a word in school? Even, heaven forfend, a word from another religion? Or an entire phrase? Your child is in school. If they aren't learning words, you've got a bigger problem on your hands anyway. Children learn about tons of stuff in school, and one of those things is social studies, which involves studying people, which inevitably means that at some point or another, your child will learn the devastating truth that people exist who are Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, atheist and Rastafarian.
At no point will the magical indoctrination switch flip in their minds and, upon hearing the greeting "shalom," they will cease to be whatever religion you are raising them to be and start keeping kosher. Phrases and symbolism from other cultures and religions show up in art class, music class and even in math class. Good luck teaching times tables without those Arabic numerals.
But when you get right down to it, these parents probably aren't mad that their kids are learning kinda-sorta-maybe-but-not-really Hindu-y stuff. Every one of the complaints that The Washington Post printed is prefaced by a phrase like "We can't pray in schools, but..." or "No prayers in school, so why..." and that's where the real issue becomes apparent. This isn't about stress management or even concern about practices with extremely dubious religious ties in schools. They don't even have a problem with religion.
They're fine with religion — it just has to be the right kind. Their kind.
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