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Shhhhh ........... I'm skipping today's assembly

Thursday, December 10, 2009

I'm supposed to take my class up to the auditorium for the student recognition assembly. These are actually great events - everyone who made the "A" honors and then the "B" honors gets a certificate, as do students with perfect attendance, best behavior, most improved, etc. etc. Anything and everything we can think of to reward and recognize students for positive behavior and achievement.

So, why am I skipping it? There are the superficial reasons - about 1/4 of my first class is in music, so they went straight to the auditorium to prepare for the performances in the assembly. Another 1/3 were told to go to their academic team, so they could sit together. Only 4 students showed up, and my BFF teacher next door came by and offered to take my students up with her.

Plus I'm firing the kiln - I need to turn it up every hour, slowly raising the temperature, and if I don't do this the items won't fire. This is the last bisque firing, so that we can glaze glaze glaze and fire every day next week, so that the students can give their items as gifts - last day of school is Dec. 22, so we need to stay on schedule.

But the real reason - which only BFF teacher knows because she understands - is that there will be Christmas music. Sounds innocuous enough, right? Who doesn't like Christmas music?

Well, someone who belongs to another religion, and doesn't celebrate Christmas. Someone who has a different belief system, and views Christmas, the birth of Jesus, as a religious holiday. Someone who believes in the separation of church and state, and doesn't believe one religion and one religion only should be promoted in the public schools and in the public sector. Someone whose husband had to fight having a creche under the Christmas tree in his office - the Office of the Attorney General - yes, you'd think a bunch of government attorneys would understand how unconstitutional this is.

My principal actually told me, the day the music teacher was playing Christmas music to the entire school, outside, huge speakers and all - the principal told me he'd make sure there isn't any music that violates anyone's religion. Uh, hello, it's Christmas, that's one religion's holiday, it isn't anyone else's. He just doesn't seem to get it.

So - just like the school events where a faculty leads the group in prayer (not non-religious, definitely one-religion prayer) - or the last student recognition assembly I attended, when the music teacher projected an image of a flag with a giant cross on it - or the 9/11 public address message when the teacher said we are a Christian nation - just like all those events, I'm trying to avoid it. I have my own holiday, it begins tomorrow, I will celebrate with friends and family and in synagogue, and keep my holiday out of the government and the state and the public sector.

It isn't that I'm anti-Christmas. I like driving around and seeing the lights. I've gone carolling with friends. I've helped friends decorate trees, and a dear friend usually has us over for her huge Christmas eve party. I just truly believe in the separation of church and state, as did our founding fathers - that religion is personal and private, and doesn't belong in government-run and -funded organizations and agencies. The government doesn't regulate religion, nor does religion regulate government, in our nation. We have freedom OF religion, and we have freedom FROM religion.

Except for the school bulletin board I made with one class, which features Chanukah, Christmas, and Kwanzaa, and has little info sheets so students can learn about these three holidays. Or in my classroom, which has a calligraphy display of "Happy Chanukah" "Merry Christmas" "Feliz Navidad" "Joyeux Noel" "Happy Kwanzaa" and "Happy New Year" in color-wheel-sequence. Because the point is, we're a school, a public school. And if we include religion, we need to embrace and include the religions of all of our students and faculty/staff - and we need to educate our students about these religions. Not keep to only the religion of the majority to the exclusion of all others.

So - Happy Holidays, whatever you celebrate! And tomorrow night, Happy Chanukah!

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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Good grief Phebe! I am surprised with all your communications this is still going on. Did anything work out with the attorney?
    2998 days ago
    I am still shocked about what can go on in public schools. Hope you have a fabulous Chanukah and enjoy Winter Break!
    2998 days ago

    The community we live in isn't open to the possibility of any other way of life - despite very large and active Hindu, Muslim, and Jewish groups. And all of those kids are in school somewhere.

    Last year, our Valedictorian was Muslim (at least, her parents were both in the traditional dress, and the family name is Ali) - yet the student who was asked to give both the invocation and benediction gave a traditional Christian prayer, because no one has taught her how to be inclusive in her praying. (Plus graduation was on a Friday night, I had to leave early to fulfill a religious obligation that night at synagogue.)

    I just want everyone to be open to and aware of everyone else's religious beliefs - to include them, not negate them.

    I keep hoping.

    So - Happy Holidays to you too!!!!
    2999 days ago
    I don't blame you for skipping the assembly, especially when the principal just doesn't seem to get it! There is a lot of hub bub here about saying Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas and I can see both sides of the argument. I don't think you should have to sacrifice the things you believe in to be PC, but you should show respect others.
    So Happy Holidays and all that Jazz!
    2999 days ago
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