For generations, parading from class to class in your favorite Halloween costume has made fond memories. It may have been in a sheet with two eyes, dressed as the Headless Horseman, or digging through a box of old clothes to look silly. It was having fun, sugaring up and getting attention by laughs and shivers with school friends, often first or only social interactions.
But, it's that time of the year again when a string of holidays create dissension about what and how children should be permitted to celebrate. The holiday du jour under scrutiny, Halloween has again raised its ugly masked head. School systems claim that Halloween celebrations should be prohibited because it is a religious holiday is absolute hypocrisy in my pillow case full of treats. What the heck does "trick or treat" have to do with the Holy Ghost?
A Montgomery County, Pennsylvania school system is following suit, likening Halloween to a religious observation.
Some holidays observed in the community that are considered by many to be secular, (ex. Halloween, Thanksgiving and Valentine's Day) are viewed by others as having religious overtones. The district must always be mindful of the sensitivity of all the members of the community with regard to holidays and celebrations of a religious, cultural or secular nature. The United States Supreme Court has ruled that school districts may not endorse, prefer, favor, promote or advance any religious beliefs.
Many claim this is an extreme interpretation of the Supreme Court's ruling. Instead, to appease upset children and families, this school system will hold a "Fall Festival" on another day in October with costumes and Halloween type festivities. Staying away from the "religion" of Halloween? Same difference, you may say?
Once more, we have we become so visibly intolerant of opinions, religions and cultural norms that we are unable to appreciate our differences. Instead, a few people destroy American celebrations that are steeped in tradition, not to mention learning and growing experiences. Why do we need to put a stake through the heart of our celebrations that are clearly not "promoting or advancing religious beliefs? It is about kids having fun with their classmates for Heaven's sake.
Did our public schools support prayers and religious education while we were celebrating Halloween?
Again, the concerns of the few stretch our credulity, forcing us to change our American traditions and cleanse our culture. The majority is watching and wondering, "Are those days of school celebrations gone with the wind?" American traditions and way of life is being continuously eroded and threatened by minority rule. This is squarely the philosophy of the minority reaction, "I don't celebrate, so you can't either."
Granted, Halloween is considered to have had roots in religion, particularly warding off evil spirits who they thought were messing with crops. But since the 20th century, it has been about trick-or-treating, bobbing for apples and parading around acting silly in costumes. According to the History Channel, "Over time, Halloween evolved into a secular, community-based event characterized by child-friendly activities such as trick-or-treating."
Most holidays ARE historically steeped in some sort of religious tradition but that does not mean that they cannot be a part of mainstream America including in the classroom. It does beg us to realize that children should be taught the tolerance to enjoy and learn from celebrations.
• On St. Patrick's Day some schools have banned green clothing, and some now call it O'Green Day denying that we are all Irish once a year. The o'shame of it all. Even the White House dyes its fountain green, and have you seen the Chicago River?
• St. Valentine's Day is already under attack and in many schools, it is now considered friendship day, not feeling the love and don't mention of the name sake who was "the Martyr of love."
• Many schools have already banned candy canes and red and green clothing because it may result in someone being offended because they do not say "Merry Christmas."
• Anything that is connected with saints, ghosts, or goblins is being cleansed. Let's stop, and smell the idiocracy.
What is next? Will schools refrain from the observance of Martin Luther King Day because he was a fine Christian minister? Will we refrain from discussing the exemplary life of servitude of the late Mother Theresa because she was a Catholic nun on her way to sainthood? This begs the use of common sense.
Place parameters around celebrations using respect for others as the benchmark. Restate the policy prohibiting toy weapons, bullying or threatening/abusive costumes and until they go home, no candy, no peanuts to avoid reactions -- problem simply solved. Involve kids in creating rules and compliance and good learning experiences will happen.
As one wise teacher friend advises, parents: Get active in your children's' classroom experiences and voice your opinions to your school board and your community to effect change.