Teaching Faith in Classrooms


From The Editor's Desk

(Hinduwebsite Editorial - Exploring Truth Amidst Illusions and Distortions)

Your belief is your creator. Your belief is your God. Your beliefs are the sum of your faith. You can call it religion or philosophy, or anything you want, but in essence it is your religion or your philosophy. If the world adapts to this idea, we can get rid of many evils that arise from our traditional beliefs about religions, and the violence that we unleash in the name of God. Jayaram V

Sometime ago there was an American reality television series on SundanceTV named Dream School, which was about the program to teach 15 high-school dropouts by celebrities from various fields. In that series, in a particular episode, a Rabbi tried to introduce religion to the students, but it did not go well. The students who were already having multiple problems of their own were very suspicious about the whole idea and the intentions of the speaker. Some students felt that the Rabbi was trying to brainwash them. One or two walked out. A few students kept interrupting him constantly by raising their hands or calling attention to themselves. The situation turned to worse when one of the girls told the Rabbi that he was an A****le.

The episode reflects a deep-seated prejudice that is now prevailing in several countries among the younger generation. It is partly due to the radical ideas taught in the school by teachers, college lecturers and university professors, and partly because the education system in many countries has come to accept the rather assumptive theory that a problem student or a problem person, being a product of his or her environment and society, is essentially a victim of his or her circumstances rather than the cause of it.

While that view might lend its own justification to compassionate individuals to save the criminals, psychopaths, and social misfits under the assumption that they are victims it also sends a wrong message that the problem lies with the institutions of society or institutional authorities as if they are responsible for our problems. This has been happening in many countries in the name of progressivism, which largely ignores the personal responsibility of each individual in society to shape his or her destiny.

It also ignores that society is made up of individuals and has no individual existence of its own. If we confuse people about their values and individual responsibilities, we must live with the consequences that follow. If a student cannot wake up in time and go to school because she has the habit of sleeping late into afternoon, neither her school nor her society is responsible for it. She has to deal with that problem or suffer from its consequences. So is the case with those who take to crime, violence, drinking, or drug habits.

The Rabbi probably made a mistake by beginning his lecture with some strong assertions and challenging the students to respond to them, rather than trying to give an opportunity to each of them to speak about their faith or lack of faith, with reasons and justification. The students wanted a dialogue or a conversation rather than a one-sided lecture which they believed would upset their worldview.

The Rabbi missed a great opportunity to engage the students in a conversation and make them think about their beliefs, and how those beliefs were influencing their actions. He must have told them that religion meant faith, and faith meant a system of beliefs and doctrines, which could help individuals in society to connect the dots in an uncertain world to make sense of their lives and their place in the world.

It is not necessary that people have to believe in a particular religion, a prophet or a messenger of God. One can develop one’s own worldview and belief system. It is not even necessary that they have to believe in God or in supernatural phenomena. It has to happen on its own by the power of God Himself. They should first believe in themselves, or in positive values, principles, inspiring leaders, humanity and in the possibility of positive outcomes from positive actions.

Belief implies trust, and trust means confidence to express and translate your deepest aspirations into reality. For the sanity of their minds, people should believe in something that gives them a purpose and direction and makes them responsible individuals, instead of making someone else responsible for their failures and mistakes and living with a lot of baggage that mentally and morally crushes them.

Having belief in something is the first step to spirituality. It is in the realm of belief that you transcend your mind and intelligence to trust in the positive nature of something. We do not want to create weak people who look to society for everything and take no responsibility for their actions, but individuals who believe in themselves and use their beliefs as the starting point of their actions and achievements.

It is also necessary for each individual who passes through the education system to have a personal philosophy that may nor may not be about religion and dogma, but about life, individuality, and his or her relationship with the world. That philosophy must be able to provide direction to individuals in making important decisions about their lives and careers, and help them to deal with problems and challenges in their lives. It must even cushion them against the shocks, which they may face from the harsh realities of life. The first step to having that philosophy is having faith in it Even though we are rational individuals, faith is important to us because we are prone to emotions and erroneous thinking and they cannot be entirely managed with the help of reason.

Governments in most parts of the world, in the name of secularism, have thrown everything out of the window that smells religion from the education material. This has the potential to create mental monsters who cannot be reasoned to think with their hearts. Modern ideologies that undermine the importance of religion and religious morality may have their own merits, but the world is not yet ready for them. Besides, so far, they failed to deliver the results they promise.

Each religion has its own negative aspect, but they also contain ageless wisdom, which can help people cope with the problems of life and manage suffering. We must recognize the power of faith in shaping the minds of our young children. If children do not learn to believe in themselves or in positive principles and values which religions teach, they may not have a cushion to protect themselves from the uncertainties and hazards of life.

Suggestions for Further Reading

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