Class 12 Wecome Seven Key Speakers On Religion
November 14 2023
Final year pupils welcome seven key speakers on Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Christianity, Baha’i and Judaism as part of their World Religions Main Lesson, incorporating a spirited discussion around the current Israel/Gaza troubles. College too held awareness for the conflict.
On Friday, Class 12 as part of their World Religion Main Lesson heard from their third key speaker, Kindergarten parent Rakhi, on the Hindu religion, which celebrated the first day of Diwali on Sunday.
Rakhi touched upon the terminology for the Hindu religion, emphasising “Sanatan Dharma”, the four stages of life in Hindu philosophy; introduced common terms and symbols of the Hindu religion; explaining the significance of having a shrine in the home and chanting various Mantras. The Class explored the importance of festivals, with a special focus on Diwali, its historical as well as spiritual significance and celebratory traditions.
The interactive session saw the pupils making rangolis, experiencing saree draping, and exploring the essence of Diwali, all wrapped up with a taste of a traditional Diwali sweet prepared by Rakhi. These activities aim to provide a tangible and engaging experience for the pupils.
Rakhi’s visit continues a programme of speakers that has so far included psychiatrist, lecturer at Edinburgh University and parent of the School, Dr Pujit Gandhi, who also spoke on Hinduism.
Reverend Peter Holman of the local Christian Community also visited the Class as part of this final year Main Lesson block to give an address on Christianity.
ESS is often misunderstood in Scotland as a faith school as many of the Christian festivals are celebrated throughout the year (see Festivals, Assemblies and Cultural life). Yet Steiner Waldorf education is not connected to any specific religion, and ESS too is non-denominational, meaning that we do not adhere to any specific religious denomination or doctrine.
Yesterday the Class had a lively talk on Judaism from Professor Joe Goldblatt, previously of Queen Margaret University, and author and chair of the Edinburgh Interfaith Association, bringing in a discussion around the current troubles involving Israel – the only country in the world where Jews form a majority of the population, and the predominantly Sunni-Muslim Gaza, with a Palestinian Christian minority.
Teacher Deirdre Hill, who leads the Religion Main Lesson block in Class 12, as well as the weekly Religion Lessons in Classes 6, 7 8 and 9. (See Upper School Curriculum) says:
A basic appreciation of religions: openness, tolerance, understanding, is vital for our pupils to graduate with.
We recognise that everyone who comes to present their religion does not represent their whole faith,” “However, whilst the teacher remains the conduit to present the content of the lessons in the lower years, (which is considered a fundamental feature of Steiner Waldorf school education which spans 12 years) by Class 12 the pupils are curious to have people with a depth of knowledge of religion which can only be gained through living practice of their faith.”
Armin Buxton, who converted to Islam at a young age, later spending years in Yemen where he met his wife and mother of his three children, all Waldorf educated in Edinburgh, will guide the Class around the Edinburgh Central Mosque on Friday, and give a presentation of the central beliefs and practices of Islam.
ESS parent and former nun, Kristine Janson-Mackenzie will visit Class 12 next week to speak on Buddhism, ahead of Classes 9, 10 and 12’s May trip to the Samye Ling Monastery near Lockerbie, the first Tibetan monastery built outside of Tibet. (Kristine, one of the Class 4 Christmas Market organisers this year, has offered two Mindfulness gifts to the raffle this year).
The Main Lesson will be rounded off with a visit by Edinburgh University PHD student, Caleb Gilleland, studying interfaith issues, who will present on the Baha’i faith, which is a new development for this Main Lesson.
After creating a rangoli together on Friday for Diwali, Ms Hill and Class 12 have made plans to celebrate the Holi festival at the end of winter on 25th March 2024 with a traditional Colour War and bonfire.
*College Hold Awareness For The Conflict
College has a special and deepening role in the life of the school. We have over the years struggled to be clear what lies, as we say, behind the education. What are the fundamental strengths, the pillars on which the education is founded. We will come back to that.
In the early part of the last century the world was at an abyss, it was facing world war. In that context, Steiner moved his focus from developing a threefold social order, as he called it, where the political, economic and cultural had balance to concentrating on Education. Never again must the world come to this precipice. Rudolf Steiner’s educational task became one of strengthening society and building resilience.
One standing point on the College agenda is awareness where anyone attending can bring an issue or a thought, this often brings a meditative element to the beginning of the meeting. Recently we have held awareness for the troubles in the world, for those affected by war and strife, those who are lost and can not be found and terribly for those who have died. – we hold them in our hearts.
Nick Brett, Interim Head of School and Chair of the College of Teachers
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