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Critical thinking
Religious education in Iran and Canada

Azadeh Madani
November 5, 2004

When the revolution started, my daughter was in a grade school. She had to change the school a couple of times, because her school became boys school. She did not underestand why, as soon as she made some friends and got to know teachers, she had to change school.

Before the legal age of 9, she had to wear the maghna-e headscarf, and do her daily prayer on the bare ground in the school. After several years of war between Iran and Iraq, my family and I moved out of Iran, and went to a couple of countries, and finally landed in Canada.

I registered my daughter in a public school. The first year was the hardest for her. Besides the burning cold winter weather of Canada while walking to school, she had to study courses in French and English. At night she spent many hours doing homework. She seemed to have no problem with math or chemistry courses, but she had a hard time with courses like literature, economy and MRI (moral and religious issues).

Every night she had to read a book and write an essay for a literature course, and about 20-30 xerox pages about a religion and its moral basis as well as its superstition, for the MRI course. Because of her language barrier, I asked the school if she could take the MRI course a year later. But they said it has to be taken by all students every year.

Trying to help my daughter, every night I would spent a couple of hours, looking up in the dictionary to find the meaning of the new or complicated words. Being involved with her curricula, I learned a lot about all religions of the world, their strength, weaknesses, and superstitions.

After they covered all the religions of the world in the MRI course, they talked about issues like drugs, AIDS, and teen pregnancy. I was glad that my daughter took that course.

Among the books she read for a literature course, I found a small book titled "Animal Farm" by George Orwell, a British writer who grew up in India. I was shocked when I read this book. I thought the revolution of 1979 was copied from that book! I suggest every Iranian to read it, if you have not already.

By the time my daughter graduated from high school, she had read and analised hundreds of books by various writers, learned about the strength and flaws in all religions, exposed to modern sciences and technology, sociology and psycology, was aware of current issues in the society and how to deal with them, and could converse in two modern languages.

What is the possibility of a mullah, a leftist or others to persuade a youth like her to start a revolution or riot, as did the educated youth in Iran? Zero!

In schools in Iran, many good books were illegal in both regimes. The students had to copy and memorize selective texts, and there was always competition for grades. They did not teach the students critical thinking and team work.

Having had a chance to compare the educational system in Iran with that in Canada, I think the key to solving our problems in Iran, to achieve democracy, and succeed in economic and social programs, is to revolutionize the system of education in Iran, to reflect a real education needed in our country.

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Azadeh Madani



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