now clogging the internet elsewhere

13 December 2006

Not surprising, exactly, but still funny.

Diversity in education is a slippery concept sometimes. I taught in a largely Mexican community, where we dutifully celebrated Cesar Chavez along with Martin Luther King. I grew up around Chicago, where we celebrated Casimir Pulaski Day (for the war hero, not the Sufjan Stevens song) in addition to President's Day. Black History Month was an annual observance in both schools. We tried. And yet, for all our efforts at supporting racial and ethnic diversity, schools have an awfully hard time giving up Christmas. As a kid I sang my heart out in an elementary school musical version of "The Nutcracker," and where I taught, our "Winter Program" was filled with singalong versions of "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" and (for diversity's sake,) "Feliz Navidad." (Because I'm an elitist separation of church and state jerk, my class sang the 50-state song. Because it was such an accomplishment that they had learned all 50 states in alphabetical order and they were so freaking cute when they sang it. We drew maps to use as props. There were also jazz hands. It was awesome.) I can sort of understand why it's tempting to keep Christmas alive in public schools. Particularly for younger kids who observe the holiday, it's a wondrous time of year, and teachers are suckers for seeing wonder on kids' faces. Plus, the crafts opportunities? are amazing. But the fact of the matter is, it's exclusionary. The "but 95% of the kids here celebrate it so it's not a big deal" argument is, in my book, even worse, because it's saying that it's okay to exclude as long as it's just one or two kids who have to be "different," and really, isn't that isolation the worst kind of left-outedness? It drives me a little bonkers every time I see a school decorated in all Santa and candy canes, or hear about a Christmas pageant being performed at the elementary school. I understand how it happens, and I'm not taking this up as a personal crusade, but it gets under my skin. I am not a scrooge, however- I do actually enjoy the celebrating of Christmas in non-state-sponsored ways. So driving through utterly heinous traffic yesterday, I switched the radio over to the "all Christmas music all the time" station in the hope that a little "carol of the bells" would allow me to forget that I had been sitting on the same patch of asphalt for 25 minutes without moving. Right as I switched over, I heard the deejay say this: "And I know I just have to give a warm holiday hello to the Diversity Office at the Chicago Public Schools, who emailed me to tell me that all they listen to, all day from Thanksgiving to New Years, is the Christmas Lite- thanks for listening!" Ah. So "religious diversity" must be handled by a different department. I give up.


Post a Comment

<< Home