Thursday, October 25, 2012

Christians, Yoga, and Schools

The Encinitas Union School District (EUSD) has made the national news by adding Yoga into their curriculum in an effort to support wholeness and health for our K-6th grade students.

This has created controversy with parents who are uncomfortable with Jois Yoga instructors entering our schools and teaching students elements of a yoga routine. Though the district has complete control over this curriculum and is working to ensure no spiritual elements are included, the ties to the Hindu religion by this specific yoga foundation are causing waves.

Some of you reading this are outraged that a school district would bring yoga to the schools, some will applaud the district for their efforts, and others are probably asking, "Why is this an issue at all?"

Though I am uncomfortable with some of the elements that have been included thus far in the yoga instruction, I believe it is important for Christian families to approach this issue with the heart of God that is concerned about all people.

The following are some suggestions that I urge the Christian community to consider:

1) Don't assume. It is naive to think that the school board or Dr. Timothy Baird (the Superintendent) are secretly trying to bring Hinduism into our schools. This district is known for innovation and excellence and it desires to lead in the area of elementary education. I have personally dialogued with Dr. Baird and know his desire is to find ways to create healthy, successful children. This is not a ploy by the district to expose children to Hinduism so we should approach the district assuming the best.

2) Find Common Ground. The EUSD wants our children to excel in all areas of life (socially, academically, and physically). This is what parents desire as well. I am thrilled that my children are in a district that innovates and experiments with new theories and new technology. I love that every student in the elementary schools use iPads for their school work. I love that they do not assign "busy work" as homework. I love that our schools have gardens where our children have the opportunity to do physical labor and then eat the food that is produced. I love that my children are able to obtain a bi-lingual education because the district offers a dual language immersion program. I love that the teachers and administrators that I have encountered actually like their schools and their students. Christians should approach the district offering assistance knowing that we all are working towards the same goals.

3) Be Involved. Let the district know that you are willing to help wherever there are needs. If you are concerned about who might be influencing your children, make sure you are involved and being an influence. Remember that you are on a public campus so this does not mean influencing by teaching your beliefs, but influencing by living your beliefs. Jesus doesn't need you to defend him, he needs you to represent him. If your Bible is the same as mine, you will see that Jesus accepted everyone, offered love to everyone, and even rolled up his sleeves and served everyone. Maybe you can volunteer to help in the Yoga class (I know.... a bit too much, too fast. Just take some baby steps).

Being involved also means being involved in your children's life of faith. Discuss what they are learning. Ask questions, and talk about the elements of Yoga that differ from your faith. Sooner or later they will face views contrary to your faith so create an environment where they can process differences in a healthy way. In doing this you will also have to trust that God is big enough to protect your kids' spiritual lives.

 4) Pray. It is absolutely essential that parents pray for their own children and all the people involved in their education. Pray for the Board, for the Superintendent and his staff, for the principals, and for the teachers. These people are not your enemies and even if they are you are called to pray for them as well. The great thing about prayer is that it usually opens your heart to the people you pray for and you will be able to approach them with compassion and understanding.

I suspect we will hear more about this issue in the weeks to come and I hope it is because our community serves as an example of how people with different perspectives learned to work together for the good of the whole city. 

1 comment:

Ryan Rosenbaum said...

By the way... I will post some thoughts about how "yoga supporters" should respond to this issue as well. I am not oblivious to the fact that Christians are not allowed to have opinions without being called "narrow minded". On this issue, the alternate can be guilty of the same things.