Happy Whatever

Generic Holiday Decoration (now be festive...blah, blah, blah)

Image: Café Press

Anna’s elementary school has a new Holiday Policy that was put in place last September. We received a reminder email two days ago in advance of Valentine’s Day.

The first part I’m okay with.

To promote healthy bodies and minds we will only serve healthy foods during instructional time, foods that align with the district policy. We appreciate parent/family support in maintaining a positive climate in the classroom and ask that parents coordinate directly with the homeroom teacher before bringing any food in for the class for any reason. Unhealthy food will be returned to parents and not accepted in the office according to district policy.

The second part, however . . .

To promote an inclusive learning environment and honor differences we ask that you refrain from sending holiday cards and items of any kind for distribution at school. We will continue to create a fun, positive classroom climate in a variety of ways that simultaneously support our focus on learning.

I’m trying to understand how banning all holidays honors differences and promotes an inclusive environment. If anything, the holiday policy seems to stifle the very diversity it claims to uphold. It’s hard to say for sure, because I’m not in Anna’s class every day and I don’t know what cultural topics her teacher brings up. It just seems to me that this politically-correct leveling off of differences in culture and belief promotes a bland and inoffensive conformity rather than an open-minded appreciation of the differences between us.

"?" on candy heart

My elementary school was pretty diverse for it’s time and location—a fairly well-off East Coast suburb in the 1970s—and I think it served me well. I remember making holiday cards one December (don’t remember which grade). We were encouraged to celebrate the tradition we knew from home.

This meant a lot of Santas and snowmen. A few nativity scenes. And one Hanukkah card. (I remember the girl who made it, as I had a bit of a crush on her.) I remember everyone was fascinated about this different holiday.

“You light candles each night? Cool.”

“You get EIGHT days of presents? I wish I got presents for eight days.”

“What’s a dreidel?”

“What are latkes?”

We were all fascinated. It’s not like any of us would have given up Christmas, but it was something new (to us) and different. I think we learned so much more from her that day than we would have from a book.

Obviously, I stuck with me since I still remember it almost forty years later. But had my school enforced the same holiday policy that my daughter’s school does, I never would have had that experience.

And I would have been a little worse off for missing it.