People talk about it often. Separate of church and state. And around the holidays, the lines become garbled. Holiday concerts. Arts & Crafts projects. Holiday shopping. Given this yearly situation, my friend, who happens to be Jewish, posted a question yesterday on her personal Facebook page, that garnered 85 heated comments as answers:
Does it bother anyone else that in public school the kids are making wreaths and ornaments? Am I being too sensitive? I am so tired of fighting the same fight.
So…what do you think?It was a spirited, fascinating discussion. Some friends simply stated; “No, you are not being too sensitive” or “I would feel the same way.” Others recommended a more inclusive approach that called for representation and crafts from a variety of different religions while others felt there was no place for any of these religious symbols in school. Still others felt that these crafts had a definite place in school– especially when the majority of kids (while not all) celebrated Christmas.
I did chime in too. Here is my take:
“I certainly see the issue. It would certainly be more inclusive if there was a celebration and lesson plan around several of the holidays represented in the classroom.
When writing our Powerful Words character education program each year, I love to write in a section that allows children to talk about the holidays. I usually choose a word that allows for some grounding in discussion– whether it’s open-mindedness, tolerance, patience or friendship, I love providing curriculum that deciphers both similarities and differences within and between holidays and the way people celebrate.
For example; “last time we talked about having being open-minded to learning and trying new things. Today let’s use our open-mindedness to learn about the holidays people celebrate at this time of year. What are they (i.e. Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa)? What holiday do you celebrate? What do you do on your holiday? What do you eat? Favorite part? We may celebrate differently (even if they celebrate the same holiday!) but open-mindedness allows us to still learn from each other and be good friends!”
I then provide notes to the teachers about similarities and differences that children might find interesting. For example, the reasons why people celebrate the holidays are different but the way people celebrate can be similar (lighting candles, eating a meal with family, giving gifts, etc). It’s nice to allow for ways for the children to feel that they have something in common to unifyat this time of year.”
I’d love to hear your take. Should public schools do crafts and concerts that center around Christmas if the majority of the children celebrate this holiday? Should public schools do crafts and concerts that put any religious motifs at it’s center?
Or, should there be a definitive separation of church and state such that December lesson plans leave out holidays and just focus on winter?