The people of Encinitas (and all those outside the city sharing their two cents) need to keep the previous principle in mind when discussing the issue of yoga in the public schools. My previous post gave a challenge to the faith communities that oppose yoga's insertion into the curriculum so out of fairness, the following are some thoughts for those who support yoga in the schools.
1) Be understanding. Thirty years ago my wife's first grade class had a Christmas party (please don't do the math to determine her age). She still remembers two classmates who waited in the office during the party because they didn't celebrate Christmas. She remembers how all the students were aware of this and wonders how this must have felt for those two children who did not participate.
Times have changed and we now have "winter parties", but the same principle applies and we need to be sensitive of those faiths who are uncomfortable with yoga. Do we really want children sitting alone and missing out on Physical Education because their family does not want interaction with practices that are associated with Hinduism? No alternative to yoga currently exists for these children so they are asked to sit alone during the yoga class thus putting children in awkward situations.
2) Be tolerant. A logical fallacy is inherent in the statement, "You are being intolerant" so let's think this one through. It is usually only Christians who get the privilege of being labeled intolerant but this time we need to turn this around. Understand that faith is the most important thing in many people's lives. Please respect religious convictions that say things like, "we will not eat meat and dairy together" or, "we will fast from sun up until sundown during holy days", or "we will not practice exercises associated with spiritual expressions of another religion". There are plenty of religious convictions in the world that I do not share but as long as those convictions do not bring harm on other people I can respect them.
For many of us with Christian or Jewish faith, we believe that the earthly and spiritual worlds are interwoven. We believe that there is a spiritual side of life and our Scriptures prohibit us from opening up to "other gods". EUSD does not want meditation in the classroom to become spiritual but for some faiths, all meditation has a spiritual element and those who do not share this conviction should respect that some do. By labeling Christians, Jews, Jehovah's Witnesses, and whoever else protests, "intolerant", you are guilty of your own intolerant preferences.
3) Don't let this ruin friendships. I have lived in a country where my faith was not accepted and where my children were isolated for their beliefs. If you haven't experienced it, you can't imagine the pain a parent feels to see their kids suffer from bigotry. I watched my children jump on the same merry-go-round as children of a different faith only to see the parents rush over and take their kids away from mine. My heart broke one day when my son asked to dress like kids from a different faith so that he "would be allowed to have friends at the playground".
4) Find the common ground. We all want the same thing so you should want the non-yoga kids to be just as healthy as the yoga kids. Be an advocate for options. We don't have to kill the wellness program and all the other benefits such as the garden and healthy food programs. We don't even have to kill the yoga portion, simply provide options that don't force discrimination. Signing petitions to remove or keep the program, or calling for suits and counter-suits is taking away from all the great things our schools do for our children and from all the energy that we should be investing on campuses.
5) Be intelligent. I know that religious people historically like to argue from passion and not logic, but it goes both ways. One comment on the blogosphere (I know... not always the greatest source for intelligence) said, "How can a parent oppose yoga at the same school that has a 'good news club'?"
That comment is a bit like criticizing someone who cheers for the Chargers but who doesn't like Hockey. The "Good News Club" is an after school optional club that is constitutionally supported and therefore is not related to someone's opposition to core curriculum in the school.
Other comments criticizing parents who object to yoga are, "Next you will pull your kids out of Karate", or "Next you will say serving Salisbury Steak... is promoting Germanic values" (Salisbury Steak is an American invention named after James Salisbury but that is not the point- editor's note) Other comments include, "I suppose now they will oppose teaching Spanish" and finally, "We should get rid of Christmas vacation because it promotes Christianity" (again I must pitch in... we no longer have Christmas break, it is "winter break" and kids are forbidden to give Chanukah or Christmas cards to one another. And what child or parent wants to get rid of winter break?).
The point is, don't argue your case un-intelligently or people like me will side against you on principle alone. Compare "apples to apples" and try to attack arguments, not people or religious beliefs.
My final word for everyone.
Focus on the 98% of the school week where EUSD is as good as any other district in the nation. Be proud of what we have and work together to put our efforts into future generations.