UPDATES: RESPONSES below added
The following is a real dialogue between a British Columbia parent who didn’t like the idea of their child doing yoga without their permission in what they thought was a secular school. Note that the parent received no further communication after sending their time-consuming response below:
Original Email written by Teacher to Parent
Mrs. “Grade One Teacher” has expressed that you are concerned about ‘yoga’ done during Physical Education/ movement classes that I teach to the grade ones.
I want to assure you that there is absolutely no religious/nor any teaching of where ‘yoga’ has come from. Instead, as per what the B.C. curriculum asks teachers to teach, ‘yoga’ or ‘stretching’ as we often call it, is focuses on stretching our bodies safely to prevent injury. Some of the stretches are a little harder to do than others, and the students are always told and reassured to try out the stretches but to listen to their bodies and not do anything that will hurt themselves.
Part of the curriculum for Physical Education is to talk about ‘healthy living’ and students often talk about stretches that they do when they play soccer, baseball etc. The terms ‘yoga’ and ‘stretching’ have been
used in class interchangeably, as many students practice yoga outside of school and recognize some of these stretches mimic yoga moves and stretches.
Please let me know if you have any further questions,
Response from Parent to Teacher
Sorry for the late reply.
Thanks for your email and for taking the time to send us an email in regards to our concerns. You are correct that we are concerned.
Here is a quick link to show that we are not alone in our concern about the introduction of yoga into the public school system:
Although I’m sure the Minister of Education wholeheartedly believes what you explain about yoga being ‘non religious’ a basic search will reveal that Yoga is absolutely rooted in Hinduism and eastern religious
practices. We did not have any participation in the decision to implement yoga in the public school curriculum, nor do I recall being notified that this practice would be included in the curriculum, but I’m
also very busy so it’s absolutely possible that we missed the memo – and it’s not like I’m on the PAC even though I really wish I was.
For us it’s not about whether or not the the historical teachings of the religions are taught or not with yoga that concerns us. In fact, a neutral, unbiased course on all world religions could be quite
beneficial in helping kids understand more about the religious backgrounds of the students in their class and the world around them.t teach about different world religions at home for this very reason. We have several friends who have turbans, for example, so we explain about the turban and Guru Nanak before we go to their home so they are not without understanding and can even engage in meaningful
However, what is happening here at Gray Elementary is not the teaching about yoga, but instead the *participation in* the physical movements of yoga, which is a spiritual activity involving the union of mind, spirit, and body which is even deemed dangerous by people who practice yoga at
the highest levels.
Simply put, to ask a child to *participate* in yoga, which in its very name comes from Hinduism and such practices, should not be included in a secular school system curriculum. Incidentally, I have several Indo-Canadian friends of said religions who agree with my position, even though they deem the practice to be beneficial to themselves. They understand and agree that it comes from these eastern religions and are also confused as to its presence in the public school.
Our position is that because we enrolled our daughter in a *secular* school and we are not comfortable with our child participating in non-secular activities such as Yoga without our consent. This would include Tai Chi, and other similarly rooted activities. Stretching, inbthe way that a runner would stretch before a track meet, is absolutely fine, of course. That is, unlike Yoga, is “just stretching”.
We thank you in advance for understanding our position as it pertains to parenting in relation to our daughters participation in school activities.
In a similar way, do not hesitate to let me know if you have any further questions and thank you so much for your hard work teaching our child.
Response from School Principal cc’d to ‘unknown other recipients’
Good afternoon Mr. Parent,
Ms. Yoga-Teacher informed me of your concerns regarding the movement class.
Please be assured that if you choose for your daughter not to participate in the stretching class, an alternate activity will be found for her. Please inform either Ms. Yoga-Teacher or Mrs. GradeOne-Teacher if that is your wish.
Response from Parent back to Expanding Party
Thank you very much for your attention to this matter. I’m very pleased with all the professional response we have received. “Nice” Elementary is undoubtedly a great school and we are very thankful for all of you and your hard work.
We are still slightly confused, though. Is it a stretching class “Daughter” will be doing, or will she be doing yoga?
As we have stated, we are fine with stretching (ie. track-and-field).
However, we are *not* fine with yoga. (ie. rooted in eastern religion(s))
It seems as though the two terms are now being used interchangeably as if ‘yoga = stretching’. But yoga does not equal stretching. Yoga is yoga. If we say ‘it’s fine for her to do stretching’ and then she ends up doing yoga, this would be a ‘challenge’.
On another note, please rest assured that we are not trying to be a pain. My dad was a teacher and I know you don’t need extra admin added to your jobs. However, I think we’ve presented a pretty good case here
on the topic of secular vs faith-based activities.
I should also state that I would not be whatsoever offended if Christmas activities were removed from the menu as well, and diwali. all for the same reasons.
A kind of ‘solution’ that I was thinking about is to keep this kind of simple that would be permissible: When “Yoga-Teacher” is doing yoga-related activities, “Daughter” (and anyone else who wasn’t comfortable doing yoga) could be instructed to do “standard track-and-field stretches”. We would be fine with that. We don’t want to make this annoying.
And on a final note, how does a parent get involved in the decision-making processes that lead to activities like these being introduced into the curriculum?
I won’t deny that I was pretty shocked that yoga had landed in my daughter’s grade one curriculum without even a consent form…
Thanks again for all of your feedback and response.
I’m admittedly not involved with politics as much as I should be. I’m involved in a few things but it’s not occupying much of my time. It’s quite rare that something happens in politics that makes me upset, but it’s even less often that something downright embarasses me about living in the region.
Christy Clark, in one fell swoop you have:
a) made me lose my entire support for BC Liberals
b) made me lose 90% of any respect I had for you as a Premier (I’m a reasonable man and left you 10%)
c) made me totally embarassed to even live in Vancouver
Word on the street (and I didn’t verify this number with even a search engine search) was that it was going to cost $150,000.00 of taxpayer money, too.
For the first time *ever* I considered moving to Toronto – and I’m not even joking. Or with my wife back to her native country in Asia.
Where else in the *world* would this kind of sick wastage occur without authorization?
Where else in the *world* would countless thousands of bridge users be inconvenienced, forced in extra traffic, and asked to use a different bridge to go home later to their families while a few people stretch and sweat on a bridge? Have you heard of the Vancouver Art Gallery? The pot smokers find it quite acceptable, you know. Are you more enlightened than Marc Emery?
Seriously, you should quit. And I mean that. It’s time.
If you are given any more time, you are surely going to go down in infamy. At least now, your kids will be able to laugh this off (do you have kids?) and it will be a family har-har over Christmas dinner for the next 20 years. But what’s next? Are you going to close down YVR for a Falun Gong meditation? How about parking a big air mattress in front of the BC Ferry terminals and do some Tai Chi stretches on them? You would inconvenience fewer people there than shutting down the Burrard Street bridge, I’m guessing.
I’ve quit before. One time I was a waiter and I kept dropping plates and making personal jokes about the patrons that they didn’t find funny. I knew it wasn’t for me. I quit. I moved on.
Don’t ruin what’s left of the BC Liberals. There aren’t a lot of other options to choose!
If you don’t, I’m seriously going to run for Premier. Not because I want to, but because I *have* to for our future’s sake.
…Oh! Wait! One more. Your Twitter comments on the subject reminded me of a few high school girls I know. Maybe don’t tweet, either. Or have someone Tweet for you. You must be able to use taxpayer money to hire someone to do that…
Are you a parent of a kid in a ‘secular’ school and find that your spirit is grieved by stuff that’s happening? You are not alone. I also am battling this and far, far sooner than I had expected.
First, a quick background: I’m a disciple of Jesus the Christ of Nazereth, aka ‘a Christian’. I refrain from using the word ‘Christian’ because it was never used by Jesus disciples nor anyone else after them, but was a title given as a label to explain them. I’m not offended if you use it but I don’t want to be yoked with some of these people who call themselves Christian. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God, that he died on the cross for me, on the third day he rose again defeating death forever for those who believe. I believe. And I am striving to act and think more and more like Jesus with each passing day of my short life. If you want to call that a Christian, go ahead.
Second, let’s get some terminology straight. It was once explained to me that in BC here it’s a ‘secular’ school system, as opposed to, I guess, a school that teaches religious or spiritual stuff or worships God or a god. I was under the understanding that a secular school separated ‘the church from the state’ or kept matters of faith ‘neutral’ if allowed at all. Secular is defined by an online dictionary as “
Last night, before going to bed, I received this email from our daughter’s kindergarten teacher. Names removed for obvious reasons:
Hello parents, On Monday, October 20th we will be celebrating Diwali (a festival of lights celebrated in India) in Kindergarten. Our multicultural worker and the Kindergarten teachers have planned some stations for the afternoon. If you are able to come in and help us from 1-3pm, please let me know. thank you,
What is Diwali? Well, this teacher neglected to explain that or give links to what exactly it is which would be like telling students in India that they are going to celebrate Christmas, ‘a celebration observed in other countries’. I believe a more detailed definition here would have been helpful so as to let parents decide whether or not they would like their children doing whatever Diwali is. Thankfully I have been living in the Vancouver area long enough to know approximately what it is (I have a few Indian friends) but that is not the case with many newcomers to Canada. To spare you a few seconds searching around online, you can just click this link for a quick overview. After about 30 seconds you should come to the same conclusion that I did: it is a Hindu festival dedicated to Hindu gods and rituals and beliefs. That’s it. That’s what it is. It is not a ‘celebration of lights’ which would imply it’s like our annual fireworks event in English Bay in Vancouver here each year. Not even close. It is not secular by the furthest stretch of the word. It is, by its very nature, a Hindu, pagan, spiritual festival.
And so now what?
The Bible is clear about stuff like this. Here are a few quotes from my Maker, some of which you may already know:
- “Observe what I command you this day. Behold, I will drive out before you the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. Take heed to yourself, lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land whither you go, lest it become a snare in the midst of you. You shall tear down their altars, and break their pillars, and cut down their Asherim (for you shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God), lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and when they play the harlot after their gods and make your sons play the harlot after their gods.”
and a few snippets from the 10 commandments (Exodus 20: 3, 4, 5), shall we?
- Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
- Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.
- Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me
We are not to touch stuff like this when we are in full knowledge that it is rooted in idolatry and paganism – things God deplores.
Like yoga! Yes! Like yoga – and if you are a Christian, you need to read this blog post if you think yoga is ok.
Now it is one thing for this multicultural worker to come in and explain, in a third party and very removed fashion, what Diwali is, who celebrates it, how they celebrate it, and what they believe, is one thing. Although I didn’t sign my Kindergarten daughter up for World Religion 101 and assumed this stuff would not be covered, she knows Jesus herself and need not be afraid of gods without power. However, to have a multicultural worker come in and, without the clear and written consent or warning to the parents that there will be participation, even at arms length, in a pagan ritual (whether with some ‘light-hearted lanterns’, yoga, or full prostrated position on the floor worshipping a statue of Rama, I care not) is a totally different ball of wax. I shudder to think that my daughter might have been in this ‘celebration’ without my knowledge if they weren’t in need of extra help and this message not have been sent!
Until yesterday, I didn’t understand why parents sent their kids to religious private schools. Now I understand.
But I’m a fighter and a writer and running, although easier, is not the solution here.
And so again – what to do?
Since this caught me off guard and I was blown away by the very subtle nature of this religious agenda, for now, I’m going to start by writing a polite reply to this email explaining roughly what’s going on. I will send this and then offer her to contact me if she would like further explanation about why our daughter will not be there that afternoon. If she replies and would like to know more, I will present her with a link to this blog post.
Here is my reply to her which any other person in the same boat as us may use as a template that you can tweak if it’s helpful. And I will update this blog post as things develop.
Dear ____ [teachername],
First of all, thank you for being a tremendous kindergarten teacher. There is no doubt that you are great at it and our ____ [daughter/son] is really enjoying ___[his/her] first year in school and learning boatloads of great stuff.
Unfortunately, neither I nor _____ [spousesname] were unaware that Hindu religion (Diwali) were not only being taught but also practiced (some stations are apparently being planned) in our ____ [daughter’s/son’s] secular school. We may have missed a memo with this information, and perhaps a consent form, but this email caught us completely off guard. Further, as there are many newcomers to Canada who may be of different belief systems, I think it would have been expedient to explain in clear and plain English and in advance that Diwali is indeed a Hindu and non-secular event and offer the parents the chance to remove their students from the event. If this email did not come out, there could have been a very notable issue if certain parents discovered that their children participated in a non-secular event without being given this notice.
As for our ____ [daughter/son], _____[he/she] will not be able to attend class during this time, nor will we as parents be able to support this activity due to the commandments given us in our religious Book. We must, as we hope you’ll understand, maintain those commandments above all others.
Furthermore, moving forward, if you could be so kind as to send me the entire multicultural agenda as it pertains to our ____ [daughter/son] so that we can review it, that would be greatly appreciated because we are now concerned that there may be more such non-secular events planned for our ____ [daughter/son].
We again sincerely thank you for your understanding of this multicultural and multi-faith environment in which we all live and we look forward to being fully supportive of all future events, field trips, fund-raisers, and the like.
If you would like further details about this, by all means, don’t hesitate to task and I will fully explain to you our perspective. It would be my pleasure.
Thanks, [teachername]. We appreciate you.