Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Daycare: Wombat seeks adventure! Ethical Tribulations

A funny thing happened on our way to Iman Child Learning Center. We discovered that the center holds Islamic religious services, including prayer several times a day, etc.

The center is in Germantown, and serves a thriving local Muslim community. In addition to being a daycare center, they also accomodate the community by providing space for cultural gatherings, including religious holidays and prayer times. As a lot of children tend to be from the community, the center focuses on Islamic holidays such as Ramadan (with Christmas and Hanukah being addressed as well). The owners of the center are very active in the community, which is a great and admirable thing. And the center is open to any child, of any race or religion - it is a secular school and is not affiliated with any religious center.

I can't figure out how I feel about this. On one hand, we are not very religious. I really don't care what community the center is in - as long as the caretakers are good, and I feel our infant is provided for. Anyway, at infant age it doesn't really matter to me what religion is being practiced by the caregivers. On another hand, we are not very religious. How would we fit in in a daycare where most parents are? Especially in a daycare where most parents are of religion we know nothing at all about? How would our child be treated by the caregivers and other parents, because he would be different even at just a few months of age? Are we thinking too much into this? It's just a daycare, for crying out loud.

And to complicate the situation, a large part of my family considers themselves Jewish. I don't really practice Judaism, but that part of the family would probably freak out if we took our child to a daycare that is affiliated (even unofficially) with Islam (wouldn't you guys?). Even though the school is secular on paper, how secular can you stay when you are serving a religious community?

We didn't go to look at the school. So, we made a call based on appearances of religious and ethnic differences - something we don't normally do and something we would definitely want to teach Wombat to avoid doing. I feel kind of torn about this. What would you do? And would I have done the same thing is the difference had to do with something other then religion?


Lena said...

While reading your description two things came to my mind. One practical and one emotional...On the practical end, if it is a private school that serves a certain community regardless whether it is Jewish or Muslim, it follows the holiday calendar of that community. Meaning, they are closed on major Muslim holidays which are not in most cases observed by American companies. So you will have to take vacation days to stay home on those days. On emotional side...I saw the words "prayers several times a day" and it turned me off right away. I am not religious either, and by no means want to force any religion on my kid as well. As small as babies look, they still hear and see and LEARN non-stop right from day one. So I personally would avoid religious schools for my kids.

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