More Push Back on Christmas

Today’s Daily Press features an article on the York County School Board meeting last night. About 80 folks showed up with 12 speakers and over 500 names on petitions to get York County to stop culturally cleansing their public schools of Christmas.

I was there.

Most schools in York County had normal observances and education about Christmas last December. Some didn’t. Religious and secular symbols, names, songs etc were banned.

York County School Board and subordinate York County School Division do not have a written policy on Christmas. This is on purpose. When the room mothers started complaining in October because they were being told what they couldn’t do in December, they were answered with white noise ambiquity. No one could find a person or policy responsible.

The point for parents last night was simple and clear. School Board – write a policy. We elect you and hold you accountable.

Some on the School Board denied there was a problem. Some said they would look into it. All deferred to the School Superintendent who offered to meet with the parents. That is exactly what the citizens do NOT want.

The Superintendent, Steven Staples – a candidate for supe at Va Beach, will meet with the parents, declare it an isolated incident and all is corrected. But, it won’t be.

Here is what the policy should say – as was presented by a parent last night:

The York County School Board’s “Policy on Christmas in York County School Division” may look like the following. Even if it is wordsmithed differently, it should contain these elements.

December 25th is a legal holiday for the United States of America and the Commonwealth of Virginia called ‘Christmas.”
Christmas is part of the 400 years of Virginia history since the first permanent English settlement in 1607. Christmas is part of our common customs and traditions.

Educating our students about Christmas shall be part of the instruction in every academic year.

Education about Christmas shall include the following:

Secular and religious traditional and historical Christmas symbols and colors

Secular and religious traditional and historical Christmas songs and music.

Historical stories on the role of Christmas in the U.S., Virginia and York County.

The traditional stories of what and why the Christian majority of America and Virginia celebrate at Christmas.

Education about Christmas shall not require the teaching of other cultures, religions, or holidays.

If anyone is interested I can post the court rulings (the closest thing to law since the legislatures at every level ceded their power to the courts) that support each point above.

As one mother said, “We are just the tip of the iceberg.” This isn’t over. If the School Board doesn’t write a policy, the good People of York County may elect a new School Board.

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11 responses to “More Push Back on Christmas”

  1. Lucy Jones Avatar
    Lucy Jones

    Hooray for York County!!! I’m proud to say I grew up there and I hope to return if I can ever retire. Beautiful County, Beautiful People! I hope they are successful.

  2. NoVA Scout Avatar
    NoVA Scout

    Some of the points in the list are fairly superficial and probably would do no lasting harm to religion. And it is undebatable that public school administrators make some daffy mistakes in their efforts to wade through the often confusing court dispositions of church/state dividing lines. I actually have some sympathy for them trying to figure out where the lines are drawn and understand why they might err on the side of caution. The courts have been less than crystalline in their rulings.

    However, reading the post, I get very uncomfortable with the idea of my religion getting dragged into government shops and taught by civil servants (who may or may not be Christians) who have no theological background. Theology is far too demanding a field to be left to amateurs. I know this initiative in York County is intended only to be cosmetic, but I find it demeaning to religion to have it processed through the public school machinery. The public education industry doesn’t even do such a great job of teaching some of the academic subjects they’re supposed to teach (there are some notable exceptions, I must acknowledge, so this shouldn’t be taken as a blanket condemnation). Why would we want these government workers testing their hands at religious instruction? I find the whole idea of inserting this into the secular schools to be degrading to the spiritual dimension of existence and would much prefer the schools and other government agencies keep their mitts off. To actively encourage government intervention, even innocently in terms of things like religious Christmas carols, in this important sphere of human existence seems counter-productive to the values of those who hold the Man/God relationship in high esteem. From a religious standpoint, I’d be much happier with keeping the schools very much at arms’ length on religious holidays.

  3. Ray Hyde Avatar
    Ray Hyde

    How about a week long school holiday, with optional attendance and credit. Spend a day of instruction on Christmas, Hannukah, Quanzaa, Ramadan, and Krishna’s birthday.

  4. Anonymous Avatar

    Why is it so terribly important to have Christmas in the schools? Why would a school need a Christmas curriculum at all, much less one that specifies no other religions need be taught?

    Of all the made up crises, the “war on christmas” is one of the most absurd.

  5. Avatar

    Christmas is about celebrating the birth of Jesus, who was sent to Earth to bring the Good News of salvation to all the world. Somehow, I get the feeling that this wrong-headed movement and the made-up “War on Christmas” and the Right-wing Christian-led “Culture War, Part Whatever” would make Jesus weep…

  6. James Atticus Bowden Avatar
    James Atticus Bowden

    NoVa Scout: Teachers won’t be teaching your religion whatever that is. They will be doing what they’ve been doing since public schools started in VA. They’ll teach about a cultural, historical, traditional holiday that is celebrated. The big difference is they WON’T be taught that it is VERBOTEN.

    Ray: Why change the Christmas and Easter holidays?

    Anon: It’s important to teach children the culture, history and traditions of Virginia and America. It helps them to become Virginians and Americans.

    Conaway: It’s a war on Christmas when the teachers are told the very word is forbidden. The school educrats made up the war not the defenders of tradition, culture and history. We’ll find out what makes Jesus weep when we met Him. Until then, surpressing the mention of his birth and why it is a holiday in the Commonwealth and the US is hardly likely to make Him cheer.

  7. NoVA Scout Avatar
    NoVA Scout

    JAB: I still feel it’s far less threatening to religion for the public schools to butt out than to have them getting involved, even on the cosmetic level. Of course, there are some things that cannot be taught without reference to the religious holiday. The “Crhistas Truce” of WWI comes to mind.

    I do agree that it’s just silliness to take separation to the point where the word “Christmas” can’t be used, but in my experience, I haven’t seen a lot (if any) of that. sounds like it wasn’t a problem in York County either.

  8. Jeremy Hinton Avatar
    Jeremy Hinton

    JAB: They will be doing what they’ve been doing since public schools started in VA. They’ll teach about a cultural, historical, traditional holiday that is celebrated.

    Now, i’m not known to to have the best memory (and for those who know me, thats an understatement), but i don’t recall any specific curriculum regarding christmas in my K-12 years in Norfolk’s public school system. Yes, we had decorations, but the only ones i recall were of the “secular” variety – trees, snowmen, presents, candy canes, etc. There may have been others, but i don’t recall a nativity on the school lawn or the like. We likely covered some specific events in social studies that coincided with the celebration of christmas, for their historical significance, but no actual discussion of the religious background behind xmas. That was assumed to be taught in other venues (like sunday school).

    Holidays are funny things that way. I’m pretty sure that most schools don’t have a “halloween curriculum”, but i can’t see going through elemantary school without being drafted for a thanksgiving play.

    Actually, i do remember a discussion about the religious background of xmas once. In 10th grade latin class, we talked about the role of the roman holiday of saturnalia in the selection of decemeber 25th as the recognition of the birth of Jesus. But thats all that comes to mind.

    I learned the spiritual significance of christmas from my parents, my pastor, and my sunday school teachers. IMHO, thats the way it should be.

  9. Jeremy Hinton Avatar
    Jeremy Hinton

    JAB: It’s a war on Christmas when the teachers are told the very word is forbidden. The school educrats made up the war not the defenders of tradition, culture and history.

    I’m sure there are some extremists out there for whom this is true, that they want to abolish the very word of “Christmas” in the presence of a government funded building. The problem is that the pushback (to my perception) is not just to prevent this, but to push the pendulum in the other direction, to indoctrinate the religious beliefs behind Chritmas into the curriculum, something i certainly don’t remember from my public school education. Here’s how i see it:

    Good: OK class, Christmas is coming so lets make some snowflakes to hang up!

    Bad: Christmas is coming, are we we all ready to welcome baby jesus into the world?

    Uhoh: Remember class, Christmas is the time to celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who was killed by the Jews for our salvation.

    For me, the first is good, the second makes me a bit nervious, and the third brings back thoughts of ” A Children’s Story” by James Clavell.

  10. NoVA Scout Avatar
    NoVA Scout

    I used to be among the jabbering throngs complaining that commercial pressures on Christmas had pushed back the season well before Thanksgiving. I suppose now we will have to brace ourselves for the ever earlier onslaught of the “Christmas Culture Wars” buzz. Here we are in March. Sigh.

  11. James Atticus Bowden Avatar
    James Atticus Bowden

    NoVa Scout: One of Virginia’s SOLs (K-3) is to learn about holidays that are celebrated by Virginians and unite us as a culture, tradition, history (or words to that effect – I’m in CA and don’t have it on this computer)

    And it was a problem in York Co where some schools DID ban the word Christmas.

    The fight in March is to bring peace in December.

    Jeremy Hinton: Your school choir probably sang some of the most beautiful music in the world – Christmas music.

    You have an active imagination. No one asked for a spiritual teaching. History, tradition and culture. That’s it. One lady spoke out and said she didn’t care about the religious aspects, but she was speaking on the behalf of Rudolph and Santa.

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