Monday, December 21, 2009

holiday equality?

I have had a couple of really interesting discussions with colleagues in the music education field regarding holiday celebration in the public schools. There are so many differing views on this topic - it is impossible to please everyone.

The elementary school in which I work does not have a winter concert. There is opportunity for one, and I suspect one has been done in the past, maybe about 10 years ago. I would not mind putting one on every year, if only just during the school day, having various grades sing for the remainder of the student body, concluded with a sing-a-long of some sort. It has been a touchy subject with parents for years that the schools should not be advocating the "Jesus" part of Christmas...we have to sing about Chanukah, we have to make sure we include Kwanzaa, some districts are even making sure Winter Solstice is part of the celebration. While it is difficult enough to get even one holiday's songs in during the busy 40 minutes/week I get to see the students, it is near impossible to get one song per holiday before winter break. I am starting to think it would be best to just forgo having the kids do any sort of holiday music, which would be a crime to the history of our country, and is a shame to waste that opportunity in music class to teach the kids to sing and play these songs well.

However, I have already been talked to by my principal about a parent who mentioned I was "teaching Christmas songs about Jesus" in my classroom. I understand the sensitivity, as Jesus has always caused argument among people, but I took offense because the activity being complained about was not even a song they were learning to sing. And I was not even the one talking about Jesus. Another child asked me if that was the history about the song. I replied, "yes," and moved on. This is what the parent is complaining about.

Anyway, my problem with this whole scenario is, if there is supposed to be tolerance and equality in all things in our society, then why are the songs about Jesus during the holidays off-limits? Why is it ok to sing Chanukah songs, which are all religious in their language, but not ok to sing the traditional Christmas songs of our country? A music educator friend of mine was saying that she received an email from her administration, instructing them that they (the music team) could use any music for the holiday sing-a-long, as long as Jesus wasn't mentioned. I (and she) saw this as prejudiced and hypocritical, since their district is heavy on promoting equality.

This just is really getting to me. Although this is not that big a deal, I am pretty irritated that everyone who complains that their holiday doesn't get enough "air-time" is coddled and appeased while Christians just have to suck it up and bow to many others's ignorance and blatant disrespect of our holiday. I really try to be inclusive, and am not upset by wishing people "Happy Holidays" as opposed to "Merry Christmas." I do not want to disown people I know who don't celebrate Christmas...that's just stupid.

What I do want, is for the hypocrisy to stop. This is just one example of many in the US where a wrong for one person doesn't translate into a wrong for someone else. If we are truly equal, we should be able to celebrate Chanukah, Kwanzaa, Winter, Christmas (commerically), and Christmas (religiously). Jesus is my reason for celebrating. I don't appreciate you pushing Him out. If we are being equal, let's be equal. I will acknowledge your holiday; you acknowledge mine.

As for the schools, the small vocal minority of parents in my district have made it clear in many ways that Christmas music in any form is equal to discrimination in their eyes. So, I think we should forgo any teaching of any holiday. We can't pick and choose if we can't include them all.


cara said...

Jen...thanks for taking the time to write this down! I think it's important that it gets heard, but I've not had the time to sit down and pen something. Merry Christmas to you and your family :)

Jen said...

no problem, cara...ever since talking with you about it, I got all fired up. I actually ended up talking with my principal about it, and he agreed with me...even the part about keeping Jesus in the mix for equality's sake.

anyway, I think it's high time christians made a stand to bring our christmas back. Merry christmas to you and gregg too! hope you have a wonderful vacation!