Non-religious preschool?

Feb 21, 2013

Discussion by: Andychud
Hi Everyone. For my first ever post, I’d like to ask thoughts & opinions on an uncomfortable predicament that I face. I live in the Philippines (I’m not actually Filipino) and, as you’re no doubt aware, it’s a hugely Catholic country and the church really controls the people & politics. It’s so sad, but that’s how it is. I’m a die-hard atheist & I want my kids to grow up with an open mind & think for themselves. If they choose to embrace religion after being made aware of a the facts, then that’s up to them. I can’t pretend that I won’t be disappointed, but I won’t stand in their way. I say this secretly confident that they’ll grow up with a healthy dose of scepticism that I’ll have instilled into them.

My dilemma is this: My 3 year old boy has just started pre-school. After much searching for the least religious school we could find, we eventually enrolled him into a Science Academy. During his first week, mummy or daddy had to sit in class with him until he felt comfortable and accepted his new surroundings and routine. Even in this “science academy” (which does not teach any religious classes) the teacher had all the preschool kids say three prayers (start of class, before eating snacks & end of class).  Three prayers in two hours! Before this my little boy had never prayed, he’d never seen anyone else praying & he’d never even heard the word “God” before.
It’s so easy to see how a “innocent” little prayers can get into the head of a child and totally brainwash his innocent little mind into just blindly accepting that there is a God & that this could shape his entire outlook on life forever… or am I worrying over nothing? I’ve been contemplating talking to the Principal of the school & politely requesting that the prayers are not said in class, but I’m pretty sure that she would have absolutely no comprehension of my concerns. In fact, I would even go as far as to say that the other parents (RC Filipinos) EXPECT and WANT prayers & other religious nonsense to be drilled into their kids.
What should I do?

10 comments on “Non-religious preschool?

  • 3
    Dublin-atheist says:

    Hi andychud, I can tell you from my own experience in a catholic school a lot of praying went on religion classes etc I did my holy communion and my confirmation,however like your son I have good parents who supported my decisions so long as I was happy, I found religion far too boring and couldt possibly take in anything the teachers,priests,grandparents tried to teach.

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  • A three year old in school? I trust you’ve got your reasons for such a decision. May I ask what they are? I’m genuinely interested, having read a few large scale studies questioning the the benefits of such early maternal separation.

    I apologize if this isn’t a direction you’d like to take the discussion; as such, feel free to pass on my questions if that’s the case. For what it’s worth, I’ve always found this site helpful with such questions:


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  • 5
    Nick LaRue says:

    Since you appear to be an expat living in the Philippines (work placement?) and appear to be limited to the schools available to you. My suggestion would be, with the understanding that your child is three, is to go with the cultural angle and don’t make it about religion but more about how the culture is different. You just want them to experience the culture and to get along with everyone.

    You have to realize that your child will encounter religion without you being around at some stage, whether it’s a school doing prayer or a child in the playground telling them they’re going to hell if they don’t believe in god or Jesus, something that happens frequently in playgrounds from what I understand. The world is full of religion so I don’t see there’s any ‘good’ time to encounter it.

    So instead of making waves and creating problems just see it as another development stage in your child’s life. I’m sure that they’ll be fine as long as you yourself work with them to make them realize this is only ‘one’ way of many ways of thinking.

    In response to GoldenRule:

    Though Australia is great I would say that it has a huge problem with religion and will soon have bigger problems in the future if things are not resolved. This is a whole other topic but if you believe that Australia is atheistic then you’re dreaming mate.

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  • Nothing you can do unless you home school which I wouldn’t recommend. My advice is to ignore it for the time being. If your son asks tell him that is something the school does but we dont do. Teach him about the concept of respect for different cultures and frame your answer in this way.

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  • 8
    papa lazaru says:

    Many of us here started with some form of religious indoctrination.

    He’ll learn from you first and foremost, don’t worry too much.

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  • 9
    OnTheEdge says:

    My son was in the middle of his third year of education in a private christian school which was located on the grounds of a large Southern Baptist University when, in my 38th year of life, I finally allowed myself the right to question myself (and attempt to answer myself) about my previously unshakable belief in God. Once unleashed, my background in math, science, and statistics shredded those beliefs in short order. I ended up leaving my son in that school through 6th grade for a number of different reasons, however, I started answering his questions honestly and I also started questioning and discussing all kinds of human beliefs and thinking flaws with him. Though I don’t have any evidence beyond the personal experience with my son, I think once the fear of questioning is taken away, the likelihood of indoctrination into any non-evidenced based belief is greatly reduced.

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  • I don’t see anything wrong with talking to the school authorities about your concerns. If it is indeed a non-sectarian school, perhaps a good compromise would be for them to have a moment of silence at the start and end of class, and before recess, where they may or may not say their prayers. Sometimes they just have to be reminded that not everyone is Catholic. I spent eight years in a Philippine Catholic school, then four years in a public high school that is supposed to be secular, though we still had activities like prayers and thanksgiving masses, and that has made me very touchy about seeing children being indoctrinated. And it’s not just the prayers you should watch out for, but also “science” books that say that God made the universe, and sexist books that teach that girls should play with dolls and boys should play with toy trucks. I could go on, but, in a nutshell, just pay attention to what they’re teaching your child and be there to provide corrections and answer his questions. Good luck.

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