Is there religious indoctrination going on in Encinitas schools? This story says, ‘No’
The floodgates have opened on the Encinitas yoga story. This largely, I think, has to do with the Associated Press picking it up. (Here’s a link to the story at Fox News, so you know things could get bigger.)
My (fairly educated guess) is we’re now in the window when this story either will “get legs” or just remain a local story in Encinitas. The next day, maybe a bit longer at most, is the critical time. If Fox TV hosts, for instance, pick it up tomorrow morning the dynamic could shift considerably.
Keep your eyes and ears open.
As I noted in an earlier post, we’ve reached out to the law firm that is advising the parents who are upset about the Jois Foundation-backed program. We’ll post a response if we get one.
Throughout this story’s development, the key issue has been whether there are religious aspects to the yoga program that Jois-trained teachers are running in the schools. That’s the cut-and-dry issue. It definitely gets murkier if you begin asking about whether a “sun salute” is religious or the larger issue of whether you can separate yoga from its Hindu and Indian roots.
If you try to look at this simplistically, though, I think the issue boils down to: is this yoga as exercise or not?
The North County Times — which might be sensing its at the epicenter of a soon-to-be national story — smartly sent a columnist out to investigate. His short answer: There’s nothing religious going on here. Here’s a link to his piece and a few key excerpts:
Indignation over flexibility, body strength and inner peace? What’s next? Indignation over Halloween? Just look at all those little pagans in their princess and pirate costumes!
I don’t mean to disparage other parents. I share and support every parent’s birthright to protect a child from the folderol of adults and every American’s birthright to uphold a continued separation of church and state.
But these parents’ concerns go too far. The only thing being preached in this program is relaxation, and the only thing close to “religious” about it is that the word “relaxation” might appear on the same page of a dictionary.
Tellingly, some of the district’s schools are in their third year of yoga instruction, and these are the first complaints that have surfaced in newspaper headlines. The program was expanded district-wide this year because of a $533,000 grant from the local K.P. Jois USA Foundation, which promotes Ashtanga yoga and was founded by an Encinitas student’s family.
Adriana Chavarin, the principal at Paul Ecke Central Elementary School, which I visited Thursday, said only two families have asked to be removed from yoga. One is a family of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The other practices a different form of yoga.
Most parents are like Richard Macdonald, Chavarin said.
Macdonald, a volunteer at the school, watched his daughter Chesney, 6, run through a series of poses Thursday.
“A lot of the things we take on from the eastern world come with a religious overtone, but we take what we want from it,” he said. “I’m not worried that my daughter will take on some other religion.”
Likewise, judging by my visit, no Encinitas student will be indoctrinated in anything but the importance of exercise and deep breathing.
Here’s another thing to pay attention to from the piece, however: “Carol Skiljan, who has done yoga off and on for the 20 years she’s been an Encinitas school board member, said the program could be a national model.”
The columnist wonders why all of a sudden there are concerns about the program — its being a possible national model might be one reason.
Posted by Steve