Friday, November 30, 2007

I seem to have made progress

in my battle with getting our elementary school to recognize that not every child at their school celebrates Christmas! The PTA newsletter for December came home yesterday. It included a variety of holiday symbols, including, for the first time ever since I've been a school parent, some Chanukah clip art.

Back in 2004, when Sam was in kindergarten, this issue of the PTA newsletter almost caused me a coronary. You see, I have no problem with Santa, reindeer, elves, trees, and whathaveyou. I do have a problem with clipart of the Holy family in a public school newsletter. My call to the principal to discuss my concern was an odd one, to say the least. One of the more classic lines from Mr. H was, "But what do I tell the Wiccans?" Cause you know, us Jews know how to handle those rowdy Wiccans. He was also surprised that I didn't know that the Christmas Show (official title) was 'inclusive'--apparently it did deal with other December holidays and I was supposed to know this by osmosis.

Each year I've had to ask the teacher to please call the party a Holiday Party instead of Christmas Party (and Spring Party instead of Easter Party). I've had to explain why I'm taking my kid out of school to attend High Holy Day services, or why scheduling a mandatory parent meeting on Rosh Hashana is a bad idea. It feels like banging my head against the wall.

I found the newsletter in Sam's bag last night. I held my breath, wondering if I'd find Jesus in there. It was with great relief when I flipped through it all and not only found nothing to be offended by, but to even excited that the menorah clip art was included. I felt included, which has been my whole point these past few years. I'm not sure the principal and staff totally get it yet. But I think we're getting somewhere.
***
For the record, I am not looking for 'equal time' in exposing my religion to the other students. I believe that religious iconography has no place in a public school. The reality of my location is that it is going to be a long time before this school is anything like a school in NYC as far as this issue is concerned. And I'm pleased to have opened some eyes about the diversity that is in our school, even in small doses. I've been invited by both Maya and Sam's teachers to come read a book about Chanukah to the class, and I was asked by Maya's preschool teacher last year (on the same campus). I'm looking forward to sharing with these children, most of whom probably have no idea that there are some people in the world who are not Christian.

6 comments:

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adena said...

yay! that's great news about the school! small steps, small steps...

BipolarLawyerCook said...

I am always astonished by the depths of ignorance people will display when it comes to other religions Good for you.

Suna said...

One GOOD thing about living in Texas (yee haw) is that they are really careful about religion in schools. I think it helps a LOT that we have a sizeable Muslim and Hindu population in our neighborhood. And many, many LDS. And a few loud Unitarian Universalists (but not many Jewish families where I live, though plenty in the Greater Austin Area). The teachers themselves are pretty united in their conservative Christianity, but other than one leaving her Bible on the desk at all times, the elementary school did a good job keeping things neutral. Of course, that meant no big Halloween celebration for me, but that was OK. School is a learning place. And yes, I have nothing against learning about religion, I just don't want it practiced in my public school. There are many, many private schools to go to if you want a daily prayer, service, or indoctrination session.

Most kids go to some activity after school to learn about their own religion. It's interesting to hear about all the different ones, since we have people from all over the world in our neighborhood (I guess it's OK to be an immigrant if you are highly educated and needed at Dell or IBM)!

cathy@growingcurious.com said...

Wow! I'm so glad for you! I can feel the relief floating off your words. That's a big deal.

Yay for feeling included -- kids, especially.

Melba said...

I am fortunate that the school Ethan and Maggie go to (I feel) are very inclusive. Everything is a "harvest party" or a "winter party" and they tend to focus on the season as opposed to the holiday.
Good for you for speaking up!