Saturday, March 13, 2010

A most immoral Moral Education

One of the school subjects my kids are taught is "Moral Education". Asians are very big moralists. Put that together with an obsession for education and voila! Last year, ME wasn't too bad; The Wast drew posters about the dangers of smoking, learnt that drug users "die like udang" (prawns, in a saying that has now become part of the family vocabulary, accompanied by a shaking finger bent into the shape of a hook) and Little Dinosaur learnt that it's good to save money. This year, however, is a different kettle of fish (crustacean?) because both kids have :: cue scary music :: Ms Susann.

I've never met Ms Susann but one thing I've gleaned from the children's accounts is that she's bitter and quite humourless. In fact, she's exactly the kind of person I want to teach my children about moral education because there's nothing that sparks a dissenting mind more than being sermonised by a hypocritical tyrant.

Take God. Ms Susann says that if you don't pray to God (it doesn't matter which one, we're trying to be multicultural here) then, if a tornado comes, you will be killed. However, if you do pray to God, then God M-A-Y save you. There's no discussion about faith in God leading to a more spiritual life, perhaps one that stresses compassion, sharing, ethics and love for your fellow humans. (And, remember, I'm an atheist saying this.) Nope, we're down to brass tacks instead -- disbelieve and you die, believe and maybe you'll live but no guarantees, m'kay? With religious people like that around -- and Ms Susann assures the class that she believes and prays to God daily because all good people do and she's A Good Person -- who needs sceptics?

Ms Susann also tells the children that all lying is bad. Period. All. Lying. But then she gets a phone call on her mobile, answers it in front of the class (wtf?) and tells the caller that she can't talk because she's "in Singapore". You should have seen the look on The Wast's face as he related this to me. "What do you think about that?" I asked, watching him. "She's a complete hypocrite," he crowed.

And she also fills the class in on how lonely she is, how she's stuck at home on a Friday night with nobody to talk to because her sisters and their children live so far away. But then she also shouts at the class until she makes several of the children cry.

I'm caught in a quandry here. While I detest everything that Ms Susann seems to stand for, she's actually doing part of my job for me. By observing her, the children are seeing a concrete example of the disconnect between words and actions; that, while people may say they're pious and humble, their actions often prove the unfortunate opposite. I could tell them that in hundreds of words, every day of the week, that they should judge a person by what they do not what they say, but all they need is one class (thirty-five minutes) of Ms Susann to bring the message home in a most unambiguous fashion.

So now, without me having to exert myself at all, I have an unwitting adult helping me raise little thinking sceptics. Both the kids discuss Ms Susann's latest pronouncements over the dinner table, taking the default position that she's wrong. Of course there are times when she isn't, and I'm at pains to point that out, but the damage has been done. The kids have independently learnt to question moralistic dogma. So, er, thank you Ms Susann?


Maria Zannini said...

Yes, thank the witch. She indeed proved your point and is helping you raise independent thinkers.

If she only knew...

Lynn Emery said...

Maria is so right! Proving God has a sense of humor, he's using Ms. Susann to teach the opposite of what she's saying... and she has no clue! LOL

KeVin K. said...

Glad I decided to take a break from working on tomorrow's message and catch up on the Spaces. Dogma and faith are mutually exclusive, a point missed by almost all “moral watchdogs.” And anyone listening to most folks who call themselves Christians would be amazed to learn we are strictly forbidden from judging others.
There are people in my family who think I "came back" to Christianity after a period of mysticism and philosophy (my default setting is "existential"). But in point of fact what I believe and act on now has nothing whatever to do with the Catholic Church or what I experienced -- and was subjected to -- growing up.
Yep. Your story is going to be part of tomorrow’s sermon.

Liane Spicer said...

Having been Catholic-schooled from kindergarten to A-levels, I've met more than a few Ms. Susanns in my time. (I know her type is not restricted to the RCs, but they do seem to thrive in that denomination.) I'm not knocking the Catholics: they do a great job of running the best schools here, and I'm grateful that their inconsistencies ensured I'd become a 'thinking sceptic' myself. My independent thinking and questioning were not - are not - welcomed by my parents. My father still calls me an atheist (I'm not) and my mother to this day gets extremely upset when I venture an opinion, religious or otherwise, that does not coincide with hers. (Happens daily.)

Last Friday the job of picking up my niece and nephew from confirmation class fell to me, and I stood outside the doors and listened to someone screeching at the auditorium full of teenagers that they were all going to hell if they engaged in premarital sex, etc. etc. The tone and content reminded me why I'd become a sceptic and apostate, and reassured me that those children, too, were well on their way down the same path.

My niece was only too happy to confirm this when we got to the car. They love going to the classes - for the social aspect.

Love the post, Kaz. Your kids are in good hands all around.

Kaz Augustin said...

@ Maria & Lynn: If I did believe in a god, I'd certainly be of the opinion that the Divine Being worked in mysterious ways. There's more from the incomparable Ms Susann, but I thought this post would be a good introduction to her.

@ KeVin: Hey Kevin, tell me how it goes. Srsly.

@ Liane: Aw, the RCs always tend to get the bum rap when it comes to dogma. (One I can well relate to, being a lapsed RC myself!) But that Friday pick-up gig, Liane, is exactly what I find so amusing and horrifying at the same time.

I asked the kids what the others in their class think of Ms Susann and consensus seems to be that nobody, but nobody, likes her.

PS From the sounds of things, Ms Susann is a ... wait for it ... Buddhist! :) More on them in another post.