They are part of the national fabric that holds our country together. They contribute to America in many ways, and deserve the same respect as any of us. I pledge to spread this message, and affirm our country’s principles of liberty and justice for all.
Posted by Anni on Tuesday, March 27th, 2012
After yesterday’s post about the infuriating behavior of the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools—they refused membership to Iman Academy, a Muslim school in the state, and made headlines by refusing to reschedule a game with a Jewish Orthodox school (the game fell on the Sabbath)—I’ve been thinking a lot about religious holy days and public education. Christmas has always been a school holiday, while other non-Christian holidays like Hanukkah or the two Muslim holidays of Eid, have not. I think this is an important issue to discuss. If we are giving kids days off for Christmas, don’t we have an obligation to respect all other religious days? If we don’t respect other religious days, should we start having school on Christmas?
I’m not sure how I feel about this debate. On the one hand, I believe everyone should have the right to celebrate the holidays of his or her faith. On the other hand, if we let kids out of school for every religious holiday there is, we wouldn’t have much school. I don’t think there is an appropriate line here: it’s not acceptable to give days off for some holidays and not others. The decision is inevitably arbitrary, based on the decider’s personal opinion. It opens the door to all kinds of potential problems.
If we start doling out days off, people will be offended. There will always be someone observing a holiday that isn’t included on this list. That’s not fair, inclusive, or respectful. If we start judging a holiday’s merits based on how many children observe it, how conveniently it falls on the school’s calendar, and how important it is to the religion as a whole (as if you can really quantify this anyway), we start evaluating something we have no right or ability to evaluate. Is a religious day any less important because fewer people observe it? How many people do you need to reach critical mass? And what about people who are non-religious? Do their special days matter too?
I think the only real solution is to make days off secular. If none of them are affiliated with religion, no religion is snubbed. We can allow children to miss class for religious days their families observe. We can put mechanisms in place to help these children keep up with their work. We can educate children about different holidays and what they mean to different people. But as soon as we start linking school policy to religion, we start leaving people out.