Raising a Child in Iran's Cultural Divide
Coping with the gulf between Iranian private and public life is a difficult skill even for adults to manage. So what should we teach our children?
My friend's eight-year-old son brought a DVD home from school the other day, a 10-minute collection of "highlights" from his third-grade class. As far as I could tell he wasn't attending an Iranian elementary school so much as one of those scary Pakistani-type madrassas, where rows of boys sit on the floor memorizing the Koran and the alumni all died at Tora Bora. The first minutes captured the class making ritual ablutions before prayer, followed by scenes of them actually praying together in the classroom, and finally, a lively segment of them practicing the call to prayer. Noting my horrified look, my friend explained that "public schools here are really much better these days." Much better, apparently, means that alongside Islamic indoctrination, kids also receive an hour of music lessons a week, their textbooks include color pictures, and teachers no longer say "raise your hand if your parents drink alcohol at home."