An elementary school in Saint Paul, Minnesota, has caused controversy after opting to eliminate celebrations of Valentine's Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Principal Scott Masini of Bruce Vento Elementary School announced a little over two weeks before Valentine's Day that he had "come to the difficult decision to discontinue the celebration of the dominant holidays until we can come to a better understanding of how the dominant view will suppress someone else’s view," the StarTribune reports.
The decision predictably invoked outrage in various quarters, especially on social media. Masini acknowledged it would be unpopular with many parents, which it was. But a closer look into the story reveals a more complicated picture than that of a politically correct tyrant imposing his crazy ideas onto an entire school, as Masini has been painted.
First of all, Masini is constrained by previous school policy. The policy regarding holidays was last revised in 2008 and is meant "to discourage lavish programs and festivities arranged to celebrate holidays and other special days, and shall strive to eliminate them, if possible except where such observances are required by law," according to the StarTribune. Those holidays are Presidents' Day, Martin Luther King’s Birthday and Veterans Day.
This policy may seem strict, but there is also the fact that the student body at the Bruce Vento School is diverse and contains a sizable number of students who do not celebrate these holidays. The StarTribune reports, according to the latest demographic data, that the student body at the Vento school is 52.3 percent Asian-American/Pacific Islander, 35.4 percent black, 6.9 percent Hispanic, 4.3 percent white and 1 percent American Indian/Alaskan Native.
This shows a different racial makeup than much of the U.S. Many of the students who do not celebrate the Judeo-Christian holidays may celebrate different ones, which creates an awkward scenario for the school.
Masini said in a statement released by the school: "I'm struggling with this and I don't know what the right answer is. But, what I do know is celebrating some holidays and not others is not inclusive of all of the students we serve."
The Tribune reports one parent commented on a Facebook page for Saint Paul students and teachers that she believes Masini and his staff are “being sensitive to children at their school who do not practice these holidays due to religious beliefs. … Holidays are very personal. Every family has a different take on how they celebrate or do not celebrate them.”
Ultimately, the fact that these holidays are being eliminated at the Vento school is not as big an issue as the fact that right now, the school seems to be replacing the celebrations with nothing at all.
Children need to be able to have fun sometimes, so they can remain engaged in learning, as Thomas R. Scarice of Madison Public Schools in Connecticut notes: “Children are predisposed to have fun, and once we take those opportunities away, learning suffers. While being sensitive to backgrounds of all different folks, I think school should be a place that children want to run into every morning rather than run out of out of every day at 3 p.m.”