A solar eclipse ban, was implemented by North Primary School head teacher, Ivor Johnstone, but not to prevent eye damage from watching directly, as some might think. Instead, for “religious and cultural” issues, according to the Evening Standard, the school prevented students from watching the eclipse live.
Watching the solar eclipse was one of three highlights of the day for people worldwide, with the other two being a supermoon and the Vernal Equinox, according to EarthSky. This was the first time that the three events took place on the same day since 1643, according to NASA.
Although North Primary School, located in West London, England, bills itself as “non-religious,” and allowed children to watch the eclipse on televisions inside the school, school officials missed a rare chance to teach the children about the universe using today’s cosmic triple play as the tool.
According to the Telegraph, the school explained their reasons.
“Mr Johnstone, said: ‘The school made this decision when we became aware of religious and cultural concerns associated with observing an eclipse directly.
“Although we are sorry for any disappointment, pupils were still able to watch the eclipse on screens in classrooms.
“However, the overcast conditions in West London today meant they would not have been able to see it live in any case.'”
Parents are angry about the ban. One particular, Phil Belman, is “outraged” that “religious superstition” prevented his child from watching the eclipse using the pinhole cameras made at home.
According to the Evening Standard, the school assigned the cameras as homework, and only issued the solar eclipse ban the morning of the event.
Belman, who has a seven-year-old at the school, called to ask about the ban and the “religious and cultural” issues, but head teacher Johnstone would not elaborate.
According to the Evening Standard, Belman wasn’t happy.
“I am outraged – is it going to be Darwin next? We will be like mid-America.”
Belman said he isn’t aware of any cultures or religions that can’t watch an eclipse. However, according to the Telegraph, North Primary School resides in an area of London called Little India, which has a large Hindu population and ancient Hindu culture bars believers from watching an eclipse.
According to Omens and Superstitions of Southern India, a section called “42 Omens and Superstitions,” explains that “Eclipses are regarded as precursors of evil, which must, if possible, be averted.”
It goes on to say in the section called “Omens 48” that food becomes poisonous, people become unclean, and when a woman gives birth, “in cases of serous malformation or congenital lameness, the cause is said to be that the mother looked in on an eclipse.”
After the eclipse ends, those who were exposed must bathe to rid themselves of the pollution.
Hindu observers still fast during an eclipse to this day with the belief that food cooked during an eclipse is poisonous, according to Time and Date.
That an eclipse is a danger to pregnant women and their unborn children is a myth that is also still culturally relevant, and quite persistent according to National Geographic.
According to Russia Times, North Primary School had no comment when a reporter from RT called to ask about which religion or culture it was protecting by banning students from watching the eclipse.
The school has yet to make a statement about the comments or the ban, other than those already provided by Johnstone. The Department of Education will not investigate the matter further, according to the Telegraph.
Although supermoons happen about once every 14 moon cycles, we won’t see this once in a lifetime cosmic triple play again until at least 2034, which is the next time the Vernal Equinox will coincide with a solar eclipse, according to NASA.
Were parents right to be angry, or should they be content with the head teacher’s explanation?