Wednesday, December 06, 2006
I just wanted to give a special shout out to my son's kindergarten teacher for being bold enough to acknowledge and teach all three major December holidays. (And note I'm not including the Islamic Eid, because it's only by coincidence that it falls in December this year.)
Yesterday I sat in on my son's Quaker kindergarten classroom and the children were making Santa Claus mobiles. Not too inspiring but it helped with their cutting skills. Today my little guy came home reeking of cooking oil because the day's lesson was on, you guessed it, potato latkes. Kwanzaa principles come next in the form of special stories read during circle time. Parents are welcome but not obliged to come in and share any special rituals they celebrate during the season.
I just find it a welcome relief to have all three holidays explained and explored, each presented as equally important and none superseding the other. My son wanted to know, in fact, if we could celebrate Hanukkah. And not for the presents on eight different days, but because he loved the story of the magic oil that burned for eight days and the ritual of lighting the candles.
At his previous pre-school in liberal, multi-culti Brooklyn, I was saddened to find that the teachers, with the consent of most of the parents, decided not to teach any holiday so as not to offend. Our 2-year-olds spent the month of December acting like nothing special was going on in the outside world and the guy in the red suit, the pretty candles glowing in people's windows and those ubiquitous pine trees with the shiny baubles were meant to be ignored. Bah Humbug!
In the name of political correctness (which I thought was over post 1999 anyway) have we come so far as to believe we should teach our children nothing instead of giving them the gift of knowledge and therefore tolerance? Isn't the holiday season the perfect time to introduce the ideas of different cultures and rituals and myths, explaining the glory and beauty of each one and subsequently the respect each person deserves for celebrating their chosen holiday? I say, yes. My five-year-old knows more about Hanukkah and Kwanzaa then I do because my elementary school never bothered to teach the magic oil story and the principles of Kwanzaa. I had to read about them in books later in life and depend on my Jewish and Blacker-than-me friends for explanations. What a waste.
Even if you don't celebrate any holiday, it's still important to know what the rest of the world is doing. Look at December as one long teaching moment.
Happy Chrismakwanzukkah to One and All.
(image from Indiana University of Pennsylvania)