A kindergarten student in Saint-Michel (Quebec, Canada) will be wearing a noise-reducing headset in class. That’s because her Muslim parents insist their religious beliefs don’t allow the five-year-old girl to listen to music. Music is an integral part of the kindergarten program, but the school authorities say they are glad to carve out an Islamic exception. “The principal thinks the family is acting in good faith,” chirped a spokeswoman for the Montreal School District.
Good faith. Funny, but not ha-ha funny.
We’re talking, I’ll remind you, about protecting the girl from Mary Had a Little Lamb — hardly the Sex Pistols or Snoop Dogg.
At least it would appear that no taxpayer money is being spent on this fundie craziness, nor are other kids being inconvenienced or forcibly indoctrinated by the arrangement. So it’s only a matter of a five-year-old being deprived of a normal, rounded education, with the complicity of the very school that is tasked with providing it to her. Nothing to get upset about, then.
Side note: To my knowledge, a noise-reducing headset combats ambient noise, such as the din in a busy shopping mall or the muffled roar of a plane engine. It almost certainly does very little to block close-by music, which has a wide frequency spectrum and lots of penetrating transients. My guess? The school is agreeing to let the girl wear headphones in the full knowledge that the remedy is ineffective, thus keeping the parents happy while circumventing their demand; or the school will in fact supply the girl with tight-fitting earplugs, thus sealing (ha) her isolation. It should go without saying that the former possibility is far more palatable than the latter.
Rogier is a Dutch-born, New-England-dwelling multi-media maven (OK, a writer and photographer) whose dead-tree publishing credits include the New York Times, Wired, Rolling Stone, Playboy, and Reason.