Quakerism class is a mandatory activity for all 7th graders at GFS. Suffice it to say that when it comes to favorite classes, it isn’t on my list. Even though GFS is a Quaker School, one understands that we are supposed to learn what FRIENDS means at Germantown FRIENDS School. Friends doesn’t necessarily mean that we are friendly people. It means that you believe in the Quaker principles, otherwise know as the SPICES: simplicity, peace, integrity, community, equality and stewardship. Yeah, I understand, and I believe in all of these things, but I believed in them before. Besides that, I learned about them every single year of Lower School. My real problem with the class is that we are forced to learn about the principles of one religion again and again instead of the principles of multiple religions. Maybe learning how different religions overlap with each other, and learning about how other religions practice some of the Quaker Principles that most of us know so well.We always practice Quaker principles, because GFS is a Quaker School, but we never really get a chance to learn and explore the vast possibilities and differences in other religions. We are always learning about the Quaker way of things, and being forced to think about things in a set way, and maybe that’s the main reason why I see some of the 7th graders dreading to go to Quakerism Class.
As teenagers, and as people, we like options. Options in this case means not making the forced look forced. It’s as if you are falling from the sky and you know that there is a mat awaiting your arrival to the ground. Knowing that you wished you had pillows and only if you fell slightly to the right you might, just might, have landed in the feathery soft pillows instead of the sweaty mat. But you didn’t. You thought the mat was a better choice, and you made YOUR CHOICE because you felt that it was a better decision. All of this is to say, I like choices. And I’m guessing a lot of people do as well.
Project time, which is a weekly period during which 7th graders take Quakerism for one trimester, only gives you a set time occupied by one project to fulfill required courses. And honestly, that hour usually goes by pretty quickly, especially when you are actually doing work. But although I am finished with this course, I felt there were times when we could be learning about other religions, when we were discussing and taking a dreadfully long time reviewing the things we had just learned.
Perhaps, we could learn about the basic principles of Quakerisim and see how they compare to other religions around the world, or religions that were geographically close to where Quakerism was founded. Something that might spice up the classes a little more. I think it would be interesting to learn about how some of the ideas of Quakerism were being practiced half way across the world, or even before Quakerism was even thought of in George Fox’s head. Or even centuries before George Fox was born!
Diversity is supposed to be a focus for GFS, and if the focus is to accept and learn about other people that are different from ourselves, how are we supposed to accept them for whoever they claim to be? Have you ever noticed that our winter break follows the Christian calendar of holidays instead of other religions? Well to be frank, the majority of people who go to GFS are in fact Christian. To follow the Christian holidays of days off will effect the majority of the school. But for the minority, it’s just some days off of school. Nothing more, nothing less. We always follow the Christian calendar, but why aren’t we off for other religion’s holidays too?
Well, some of you might argue about Hanukkah, we’re off of school then, right? But Hanukkah isn’t the most important Jewish holiday, it just happens to be close to Christmas. For the most important holidays, most kids just don’t go to school. Is it fair for them to loose class time and make up tons of homework where we have set homework for winter break? I think not. Some teachers make an effort for some of the Jewish days to give less homework, but what about people who aren’t Christan or Jewish? They’ll have to make up a ton of homework too.
How are we supposed to know which holidays are important to other religions when we know nothing about the religion itself? If you attended GFS in first grade they have a brief day to tell about one holiday some other religions practice during the time of Christmas. But that’s just it, DURING THE TIME OF CHRISTMAS!
If GFS is focused on diversity, shouldn’t religion be one of the focuses too?