Hey, New Zealand, Stop Trying to Be Like America

Another public school. Another prayer. Another administrator who thinks those two things belong together.

The only surprising thing is that this is happening in Auckland, New Zealand.

At the beginning of the day at Kelston Intermediate School, students recite karakia — a Maori prayer. The principal doesn’t see anything wrong with that:

Kelston Intermediate School Principal Phil Gordon

Kelston Intermediate principal Phil Gordon said he had no idea some staff were unhappy with karakia in the classroom until contacted by the union representative.

Gordon said he reassured the union representative the karakia was a cultural component of school life and an expression of beliefs that reflected the Kelston community.

“I guess what they might have been inquiring about is the presence of karakia, etc, within school so we talked about what we’re doing is not a religious thing but a cultural thing.”

Staff and pupils were free to abstain, he insisted. “I think perhaps there has been a mismatch in understanding.”

There’s no misunderstanding. When you have kids talking to the Lord at the beginning of the school day, you’re pushing religion on the students.

The same thing applies to the prayer they say at West Auckland’s Rosebank School:

Principal Heather Bell says beginning the day this way brings a sense of grounding to the school and creates a sense of belonging.

Translated, the brief Maori prayer penned by the school’s kaiarahi reo or Maori language assistant, says: “Lord look after us, guide us with your work today, in your holy name.”

Bell says there has always been great community support for karakia in school, which also includes a lunchtime blessing for food and a prayer for safekeeping at the end of the day.

And if any child felt uncomfortable they were free not to join in reciting the lines.

Bell may not have caught the contradiction there, but I’m sure all of you did.

If a child chooses not to recite the prayer, there’s no “sense of belonging” taking place. The prayer forces them to pray to a Lord they don’t believe in or be shunned by their classmates. Neither option is acceptable, and no child should be put in the position of having to choose one.

In case you’re wondering, all primary schools in the state must remain secular, so the praying isn’t allowed. The local union is taking steps to fix the problem — but if the principals don’t even understand what the issue is, it’s going to be hard to fix.

I guess none of this is all too surprising when you consider that the country’s Associate Education Minister John Banks is a Creationist.

(Thanks to David for the link!)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X