Should Kids Go to School on Christmas?

Jeanne Sager

school calendarJust when you got comfortable with your kids' school throwing a "holiday play" and a "Solstice party," we've got another reminder that some of our kids' classmates are getting shafted by the American school system. Have your kids ever gotten a day off for Ramadan? What about Pongal? Buddha's birthday?

Just as we finally put to bed the idea that the economy has crafted a War on Christmas to piss off the Christians, a new movement is afoot to ban religious holidays on the public school calendar. All of them. I'm a liberal, and might I just say this is the dumbest idea yet?

As it stands, most schools in America are closed on Christmas. So are the banks, the post offices, and just about every store in America. As a day off, it long ago ceased to be religious in nature for the general public. Most of us just enjoy the day off -- whether it's with a tree or in a Chinese restaurant.

The addition of Jewish holidays to the list calendar, and in Massachusetts recently a Muslim holiday off, has set off a rash of people complaining that we need an all or nothing system. And nothing, they say, is really befitting the separation of church and state.

But let's look at what happens when children are allowed to stay home from school on a religious holiday. Is the holiday marketed to them? Are they told to skip school and hit the synagogue, the church, the mosque? No and no. They're simply allowed out for a day to annoy their parents and veg in front of the television. Not very religious.

If anything, the schools' current practice of being all inclusive is more damaging to little Muslim kids who come home from school in early December asking their parents why they don't get presents for eight nights or little Christian kids who can't understand why the teachers are talking about fasting during Ramadan.

I heartily support attempts to expose kids to all cultures in an effort to teach acceptance and tolerance. But I've faced the aftermath firsthand, having to explain to my daughter that dreidels are very nice, but we don't have any because we're not Jewish. It would be far simpler to have her home from school on Rosh Hashanah and simply say, "School is closed today, sleep in until the sitter gets here."

To children, a day off simply is. There is no nuance to it unless their parents add one. It's my decision to spend this Christmas Eve in the kitchen finishing up our holiday baking just as it's my decision to take my daughter to a Memorial Day parade or to spend Thanksgiving with family. Other families make alternate decisions, as is their prerogative. 

I'm comfortable with the addition of holidays -- as long as our kids get their state-mandated number of academic instruction. But what happens when they're outside of school should remain up to the parents. Do you think there should be a ban on all religious holidays in public schools?


Image via woodleywonderworks/Flickr

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