Advertising | Metro Eireann | Top News | Contact Us
Governor Uduaghan awarded the 2013 International Outstanding Leadership Award  •   South African Ambassador to leave  •   Roddy's back with his new exclusive "Brown-Eyed Boy"  •  
Print E-mail

What's wrong with asking questions?

Last update - Thursday, December 17, 2009, 20:44 By Priya Rajsekar

Recently a young child I know had an experience that significantly upset him. In school one day he had asked his teacher what the idea was behind the Christmas tree, and how one could ‘rebuild’ a dead tree with lights and decorations as we see on the streets and in homes throughout the country.

The child in question was not Christian, but nevertheless was born in Ireland and looked forward to the festivities of Christmas and Santa Claus just as much as any Christian child would. Besides, his doubt was legitimate: he was questioning the logic behind chopping down a live tree and then sprucing it up for the festival.
Disappointingly, the teacher in question made no attempt to answer the question, and merely retorted that just as the child, being a Hindi, could only understand the significance of Diwali, only a Christian could appreciate the significance of a Christmas tree.
The little boy returned home visibly upset, not sure what he had done wrong. He was only questioning the wisdom of cutting down a tree – having been taught daily about the need to preserve the environment and the ill-effects of deforestation – when it would be just as nice to decorate a ‘live’ tree.
To some this may seem like a trivial issue. But we are quite unaware of hundreds of such questions being asked in Irish classrooms, and remain ignorant as to whether or not our teachers are trained to handle such queries. To an impressionable mind, this teacher’s impatient reply could have long-term consequences on the child’s ability to integrate, and that of other children to accept him as one of them.
Ireland can no longer claim to be a novice in dealing with immigration. Over the past decade, the country has played host to thousands of immigrants who have contributed significantly to its economic prosperity and cultural wealth. Thousands of children born to immigrant parents believe Ireland is home, and have adopted Irish culture as their own. Many of these children are Irish citizens and have the constitutional right to deem Ireland as their homeland.
Despite Ireland being a Christian country, a growing number of its population subscribes to other religions. And though the influence of Christian culture and its presence in their daily life is an undeniable reality– especially within the environs of the school – non-Christians should be included and not be discriminated against on the grounds of religion.
It will probably be tough in the current economic climate to find the resources to provide multi-faith orientation. But surely teachers can be trained to deal with legitimate and innocent questions raised by young children without automatically giving it a religious slant.
In the pages of this very newspaper, I have written about the symbolism behind the Hindu god Ganesha’s elephant head – a subject dealt with rather unprofessionally by Irish Independent columnist Ian O’Doherty.
It is also a fact that no matter how politically correct and overtly tolerant we would like to appear, at some time or other we have all had doubts and questions on the practises of other religions. If we automatically take any legitimate questions as an affront to our own faith and took to verbal or physical violence in retaliation, peace of any kind will only ever be a pipe dream.
The stories of clerical abuse are also reaching young listeners who, irrespective of their religious orientation, will spontaneously ask questions. There is no running away from this, so we need to train educators and equip them with the resources to deal with such issues.
Integration is a two-way street, and the sooner children are given an incentive to want to ‘belong’ and to want to ‘accept’, the better the results will be. By allowing children to form groups on the basis of religious orientation, and by expecting immigrant children to accept their outsider status, we are treading down a dangerous road, the consequences of which can only be catastrophic.

Priya Rajsekar is a freelance writer

Latest News:
Latest Video News:
Photo News:
Kerry drinking and driving
How do you feel about the Kerry County Councillor\'s recent passing of legislation to allow a limited amount of drinking and driving?
I agree with the passing, it is acceptable
I disagree with the passing, it is too dangerous
I don\'t have a strong opinion either way
Quick Links