Friday, December 16, 2005

One voice, but whose?

I do not believe there is a 'War against Christmas.' But I do think there are battles being fought about it.

Working in the schools, I saw, time and time again, programs about Christmas eliminated because one parent objected, symbols of Christmas removed because one parent complained, stories, poems, etc, deleted from curriculum because one parent objected. I saw children of "those" families forced by their parents to attend on the party days, but to sit out in the hall or go to the library lest they be exposed to something that particular family did not embrace. How sad that a family's belief system be so fragile that a question from a child would destroy it, but what other explanation could there be?

And, of course, there were those very, very few families who just kept their kids home when the schools did anything the parents disapproved of. I believe these families are most responsible for the elimination of holidays within the schools, because when kids are absent, the schools don't get federal money for their warm body, and it's money that makes the scholastic mare go. Therefore, to keep all the kids in school, administrations and lawmakers are eliminating anything that might offend, keeping more bodies in the building and more pennies in the coffers.

It's odd, isn't it, that the literature textbooks are now full to the brim of ethnic and alternate lifestyle stories, holidays, celebrations, and beliefs, but strangely devoid of anything resembling a Christian lifestyle. I've seen classrooms with Kwanzaa or Hannukah decor and those were okay, but a Christmas tree, or wreath? Verboten. The explanation we were given was that the "other" celebration symbols were part of 'culture education,' whereas a Christian symbol would be interpreted as proselytizing.

I once used a textbook that had in it a story about an old man who had been ashamed all his life of the year he'd had to go on welfare, and wanted, before he died, to somehow repay the system. He planted a huge garden, and went around the city giving gifts of large lots of food to poor people, believing they would be grateful and understand what he was doing. He was shattered when not one person thanked him, and almost all of them complained to the county welfare office because their neighbor got something they didn't get and they demanded more and whined that they weren't getting exactly what they requested and finally tried to sue because of 'discrimination.' That story was eliminated from the curriculum; it was deemed politically incorrect and might make people ashamed.

Well, shouldn't they be? We had to accept gov'ment cheese a time or two in the past, and we're dangerously close to that right now, and we were plenty ashamed. We did it, for the sake of the children, but we were ashamed that we had to. I think we are supposed to feel shame when we can't do these things ourselves. I think that kind of shame makes us more determined to rise up out of it and make it, no matter what the odds. I think true shame would be considering charity a lifestyle rather than a temporary fix. (Slacker lifestyle.) But then, what do I know. I read the story to over a hundred students that year, and the school got flak from one family that was "humiliated," and we had to actually physically tear the pages out of all the textbooks, even though that story inspired some of my students to volunteer, donate, and try to help others in the county.

I know that in America, "one voice" is heard and is important, but when did it happen that "one voice" is dictating what all the other voices are allowed to have, see, hear, be, or go?

I know that majority rule isn't always appropriate, but when did it happen that the majority has no rights at all?

When did it happen that one person's beliefs overrule the beliefs of everyone else?

When did it happen that prayer can be removed from a sport, graduation, celebration, holiday, etc, because one person heard about it and travelled a thousand miles to protest about it, even though that person did not live in that community and was protesting merely to make a point and get some publicity?

I think it's wonderful that this country has a diverse population. I think different points of view make for a very tasty melting-pot-stew. But while it's still wonderful that one voice can change things, it's not right that one voice can change things no one else wants to change, things that aren't hurting anyone or beating anyone down, or leaving anyone out if they wish to participate, etc.

When I first started teaching, December turned the schools into a magic place, a place where every single child, no matter what sort of bleakness he might be facing at home, was assured of a wrapped gift, and a party, and lots of great food and candy, and a stocking, and a chance to make all kinds of glittery cool stuff in art class, and a month where he could sit in class and stare at a twinkling glowing tree with presents under it, one of which he KNEW was for him, and the opportunity to sing beautiful songs that were not sung at any other time of the year, and a total immersion in American holiday culture, because they all lived in America, duh. Each child had that in December, even those children who went home to nothing. But now, those families who believe in nothing insist that all the other children have nothing at school, either. And for whatever reason, their insisting has taken precedence over the belief system of the majority of the other families, who have no choice, it seems, but to abide by it.

I think sometimes that the only 'voices' that are heard these days are those 'voices' that insist that their particular rights and beliefs, few though they are comparatively speaking, absolutely must take precedence over everyone else's, even in a culture that traditionally and happily celebrates.

How sad for their children. I'm sorry for their children. As for the adults who do this to them? No pity for you; you're adults who have chosen to remove the sparkle and happy suspense from the lives of millions of children in this country. I might even despise you for that.

So, "War Against Christmas?" Probably not. But in the schools, I'm afraid there is, and has been for several years now, and it's worse every year, as long as we continue to put up with that one voice that insists we eliminate all references to something that one voice, individually, doesn't happen to like, even when all the other voices love it.

In a choir, that one dissonant voice wouldn't be tolerated. It would ruin everything for everyone.

Yep. It sure would.
Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 8:28 AM | |


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