Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Not Knowing is Better than Knowing?

I have been bothered by this 'contemplative' statement of my own, especially since the end of 2007 due to 'something unhappy' happened. (You can click the following site not-knowing.)

And this morning, this statement haunted me again while I was discussing 'Prejudice and Discrimination' in Christianity and Hinduism, in 'Religious Studies' class of grade 11. (I downloaded the material from Religious Studies ) To start the discussion, I gave two questions to discuss in pairs/small groups:

1. In Christianity, women cannot become priests.

2. In Hinduism, women are as important as men but they have different roles.

FYI, there were seven students in the class, three boys and four girls. One is from Denmark -- a brand new student -- while the others are Indonesian.

Point number 1: Women cannot become priests in Christianity.

The only student from Denmark -- a girl -- directly criticized this statement because she said she found many women becoming priests. She perhaps thought that this 'prohibition' was 'practiced' only in Indonesia. Therefore, I asked her to check the material where she read:

Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.

1 Corinthians 14:34-35

I divided the class into three small groups; the four girls worked in two pairs and the three boys in one group. The two pairs consisting of girls did not agree with the statement that women cannot become priests. They simply said that women are supposed to be equal with men. If a woman has as much knowledge and education as men, she can become priest for sure. The boys agreed that women cannot become priests because 'they look weird to be priests'. :)

And my time to 'bubble' came although I did not want to talk a lot. In the past even only some 'chosen' people could understand the Bible because it was not yet published in a language where 'common' people understood. Those 'chosen' people obviously were men because only men could study that special language. Only men got education in the past because education was expensive.

Then men -- using their male life experiences -- interpreted the so-called holy book. This inevitably resulted in gender-biased 'readings' where one of them was 'only men can become priests'.

The discussion then led us to talk a little about the struggle of Kartini. Now women in the whole world can get education as high as they want therefore women can become anything that they want.

Point number two: women are as important as men but they have different roles.

Pay attention to the word 'but'. As a language teacher, the word 'but' can always show the different treatment. Since the material mentioned

The Ramayana (Hindu text) tells the story of Lord Rama and his wife, Sita. Women are encouraged to be good wives and mothers and to follow the example of Sita.

I asked the students whether they were familiar with the story of Ramayana. Unfortunately, none of them has ever heard or red the story about Rama and Sita. Therefore, in short, then I narrated the story about Sita was kidnapped by an ugly giant called 'Dasamuka' (ten heads) in Indonesian version. After struggling to get Sita back, in fact, Rama did not believe that Sita was loyal to him. To test the wife's loyalty, Rama asked Sita to commit suicide. (Am I right? LOL.)

The end of this so-called fairy tale shocked my students since it did not end happily. Does this mean in Hinduism women must always be ready to commit suicide like what Sita did when the husband asked her to do so? The discussion made me remember the practice of 'suttee' in India long time ago (although I heard that it is still sometimes practiced in some minor ethnic groups in India?) where the wife had to throw her body to the fire to burn herself when the husband died. Everyone can guess how the information about 'suttee' practice shocked my students.

Can we still say that women are as important as men in Hinduism? (I am truly asking not judging.)

GL7 09.35 191011

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