Christmas Party @mcleod @edjurist

Image Source: http://www.ardmore-hotel.com/Upload/christmasparty.jpg


Over the years, Dr. Scott McLeod and others (Justin Bathon) have had fun laughing it up in regards to holiday celebrations. Is that Christmas eCard really appropriate in a K-12 setting?

In the spirit of problem-based learning scenarios, let's consider this twist:
Throughout the year, every birthday and holiday gathering has been marred by the presence of Jehovah's Witness observers in the Office. Every birthday/holiday celebration, Meg and her fellow Jehovah's Witnesses, have made an issue about not attending birthdays and holiday celebrations.
While Richard, a devout Christian, appreciates the problem, he is getting a bit angry at what he considers reverse discrimination. So when the Office Social Committee sets out to organize Winter Break, he decides to put the shoe on the other foot. "My fellow Christians," he starts off, "and I are going to NOT participate in the Winter Break party. We will be happy to participate in a Christmas Party, but not a Winter Break one."
Perplexed, the question becomes, "Who's actually going to attend the Winter Break Party?" 
In the spirit of Scott's original contest, the original instructions appear below:

The Rules:


  1. Only American public schools are eligible. [sorry, international readers]
  2. Identify a possible violation of the Establishment Clause of the United States Constitution in your local school system. The Establishment Clause requires that schools not favor a) one religion (e.g., Christianity) over another religion, or b) religion over no religion. Government-sponsored religious displays or activities are pretty much always unconstitutional.
  3. Leave your description of the possible violation in the comments section of this post. If you’re not sure if it’s a violation or not, leave it anyway and we’ll chime in as needed. Possible violations may include teacher- or school-sponsored activities, displays, or other actions.
  4. The most egregious violation [as judged by myself, Dr. Scott McLeod, Justin Bathon (at CASTLE’s brother blog, EdJurist), and Jon Becker (of Educational Insanity)] wins a yet-to-be-determined prize!
  5. Deadline for entries is December 23, 2010.



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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

Comments

christian peper said…
Your holiday scenario assumes that individual Jehovah witnesses have the freedom to determine if they want to celebrate Christmas or not. Individual Jehovah’s Witnesses who celebrate Christmas risk ritual shunning or “disfelloshipping” if they dare celebrate any holiday. To imply that individual Witnesses have any freedom is wrong. They do what the Governing Body tells them.
Anonymous said…
Your scenario assumes that the Witness is trying to make trouble for the others. Regardless of if you call it a Winter Party or a Christmas Party the Witness is not likely to attend. Most students of that age range K-12 mentioned will only recognize the season as Christmas anyway. You should care about your Christian rights as much as the Witness does. That is why they take the brave stand that they do... because their beliefs do matter to them even when they are not at their churches... do what you need to... but do not expect that that Witness will think that it is about them.. they may even commend you for caring enough about your beliefs to take a personal stand. Most people do not.
Ric Murry said…
I just (and I mean within 10 minutes of seeing this post in my Reader) had a Muslim student (from Lebanon)give me a Christmas card and wish me Merry Christmas. I told her I thought that was very nice and sweet of her to do so. She told me I was nice to her during Ramadan when she was sitting in the cafeteria during her fast and offered to let her come to my room so she didn't have to be "tempted by the smell of food.

The fact that this discussion takes place about "constitutionality of church and state" blah, blah, blah only demonstrates that those who claim tolerance and equality still have not accepted it. Sorry to Scott to say so.

I accept Muslim scarves everyday, an expression of religious devotion and tradition. I accept My Hindu students, my Buddhist student every day, not just on their holiday. So they accept my holidays too.

It really is that simple.
Scott McLeod said…
Ric, your point is well taken and I'm glad to hear that you're welcoming of your students (and that they are of you). Of course that's the way it should be.

The bigger policy / leadership question is not whether individual educators such as yourself are welcoming, because of course many are. It's whether the public governmental institution as a whole is legal, welcoming, inclusive, respectful, etc. And, unfortunately, many are not which is why we've had so many lawsuits in this area to protect the minority against the majority.
Ric Murry said…
Scott,

Has it really been to protect the minority from the majority or to ridicule the majority of the nation?

I'm unconvinced that it is really either way, but more a way for a few (usually lawyers and their firms) to create problems that might not exist if they would practice what they say they are against.

It seems to be a consistent issue of create the problem so the discrimination can continue and usually by the people who claim to want equality for others.

Then there is also the issue of people who seek ways to be offended. Don't know what to do about them. ;-)
Scott McLeod said…
Well, Ric, you can read the case law - or the comments of folks like Jon Becker and Karl Fisch over at Justin Bathon's post (http://bit.ly/hm4cfw) - or some of the comments at my post (http://bit.ly/euqnk0) - or some of the tweets that I got (http://bit.ly/hEmbjN) - and you can decide for yourself if this is just a case of folks trying "to ridicule the majority of the nation." I think you'll be hard-pressed to find that. Instead, I think you'll see struggles to feel validated and to be recognized as worthwhile.

Humanity has a long history of marginalizing (and doing worse to) religious minorities. The purpose of the First Amendment is to recognize the rights of the majority while simultaneously protecting the minority against domination by the majority (and, let's be honest: although sometimes true, it's usually not the majority that needs the protecting; we usually don't need to fight for the rights of the mainstream). The purpose of public schools' obligation to be welcoming to ALL students is so that they don't give up on certain ones (e.g., racial-ethnic minorities; poor kids; those with special needs); they don't always succeed but I don't think we want them to have carte blanche to walk away from certain students.

Ask public school students and employees who are in the religious minority how they feel this time of year. Many have come to some kind of uneasy accommodation. Some are completely fine. And many, many aren't. I think we can (and should) do better.
Ric Murry said…
Scott,

No question we should and must do better. No question the purpose of the first amendment.

The questions, to me, is how and who really determines what is "mainstream?" Is it "the majority," "the media," PR firms, the government, "religion," the people, or some other entity?

Even in a Constitutional Republic, where there is "rule of law" it still comes down to who has the power to declare what the "mainstream" is and then decide "what the will of the people" truly is.

I would argue that the term "mainstream" is frequently used to criticize that which one disagrees with, more than what a majority of people would believe.

It is the "assimilation" v. "acculturation" argument of cultural acceptance. Do we create a "melting pot" or do we try to have minorities "add-on" the practices of other cultures? The melting pot theory has been declared a bad practice, and yet acculturation has allowed the marginalization of non-majority groups to go underground, and be more secretive (and harmful). [NOTE: That would be a good WikiLeaks project. :)]

Truth; we will always have prejudice, racism, and marginalization as long as we continue to talk about it in terms of the need to include or exclude the beliefs and practices of any group. We will also have prejudice, racism, and marginalization as long as we don't talk about it. It will not disappear, and one's religious (or lack of religious) beliefs will determine why this is true.

Questions (part 1): Is the majority group's reduction of allowances the way to arrive at equality? Is increased allowance of the marginalized a way to arrive at equality? Or is the compromising by reducing one groups and increasing another group the way to go? Can any of this really be done on scale?

Questions (part 2): Law is a tricky thing, especially school law. So if something is legal does that make it right? If something is illegal, does that make it wrong? Should we be more concerned with what is legal/illegal or with what is right/wrong?

I know I'm going a little Gandhi (and MLK) on the discussion. :)
Scott McLeod said…
Ric, I think in this instance it's safe to assume that 'the mainstream' is the Christian majority?

Not sure whom would exercise civil disobedience in your thinking: would it be the disenfranchised majority or the disenfranchised minority?

The tensions between the Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses are very real and usually unsatisfactory to some group. I'm okay with us moving this discussion to issues of kindness; doesn't that underscore my point about being respectful and welcoming of ALL students?
Ric Murry said…
I think we prove each others point. Regardless of who would exercise the civil disobedience, it would maintain, and in some ways expand the prejudicial treatment of someone or some group.

As you said, "The tensions between the Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses are very real and usually unsatisfactory to some group."

My role (self-chosen) was based on your comment "Instead, I think you'll see struggles to feel validated and to be recognized as worthwhile." I parallel that with the feelings of the Jehovah's Witness, Hindu, Jew, or Muslim at Christmastime.

So I sought to demonstrate that as the minority opinion holder of the conversation (based on the people named in your other comment), I could either be denied my voice (did not happen), I could be offended or ridiculed (did not happen). Further, I was not trying to set you up, because I've known you long enough that I know that ridicule is not your style, so I proceeded.

Here's what I learned...

By denying the rights of any group, or opinion, we marginalize.

By allowing the opportunities of expression (be they religious, cultural, or otherwise) we learn rather than wonder what the other might be hiding.

Could denying Christians the opportunity to have a school Christmas party be akin to denying Muslim students their right to fast during Ramadan? The Muslim's inactivity is a religious activity taking place on public school grounds. The Bindi mark of the Hindu is a religious marking used during times of worship (which do not have set times or locations of worship) so it is happening on public school grounds. Religious activities take place on a daily basis in schools across the country. Because we know Judeo/Christian religious activities (not well) we recognize them and seek to deny their activity on school grounds. The majority is denied while the minority is acceptable.

When we deny or worry about offending others, we discriminate against a group's beliefs. To disallow the opportunity for these beliefs to be learned, understood, and accepted (not in a proselytizing manner) only propagates misunderstanding, prejudice, discrimination, and ignorance.

Shouldn't school be the one place where the learning should take place, rather than the place where learning can't take place?

You are correct. This conversation is about the kindness, acceptance, and desire to understand those who are different than us.

I hope together, we have demonstrated (rather than solved this issue) that when the minority opinion-holders and the majority opinion-holders are willing to discuss, listen, and learn we are all better off: no suspicions, no animosity, no hurt feelings, just understanding the other person's beliefs and perhaps convictions.

To go further, you and I could not have had this conversation (we could have, but trying to demonstrate another point), if Miguel (who is our supreme power of this conversation) chose to deny either of us his space and time to approve our comments.

I consider you and Miguel my friends. I have learned from you many things through the years. You stretch my thinking and understanding, and in doing so increase my acceptance of opinions I have not even considered until you introduce it. I thank you for all you do to help our educational communities.

So whether it is Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Happy Kwanzaa, Enjoy Your Winter Break, Happy Holidays, or nothing at all - I wish you only the best. And Happy New Year too.
Ric Murry said…
I think we prove each others point. Regardless of who would exercise the civil disobedience, it would maintain, and in some ways expand the prejudicial treatment of someone or some group.

As you said, "The tensions between the Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses are very real and usually unsatisfactory to some group."

My role (self-chosen) was based on your comment "Instead, I think you'll see struggles to feel validated and to be recognized as worthwhile." I parallel that with the feelings of the Jehovah's Witness, Hindu, Jew, or Muslim at Christmastime.

So I sought to demonstrate that as the minority opinion holder of the conversation (based on the people named in your other comment), I could either be denied my voice (did not happen), I could be offended or ridiculed (did not happen). Further, I was not trying to set you up, because I've known you long enough that I know that ridicule is not your style, so I proceeded.

Here's what I learned...

By denying the rights of any group, or opinion, we marginalize.

By allowing the opportunities of expression (be they religious, cultural, or otherwise) we learn rather than wonder what the other might be hiding.

Could denying Christians the opportunity to have a school Christmas party be akin to denying Muslim students their right to fast during Ramadan? The Muslim's inactivity is a religious activity taking place on public school grounds. The Bindi mark of the Hindu is a religious marking used during times of worship (which do not have set times or locations of worship) so it is happening on public school grounds. Religious activities take place on a daily basis in schools across the country. Because we know Judeo/Christian religious activities (not well) we recognize them and seek to deny their activity on school grounds. The majority is denied while the minority is acceptable.

You are correct. This conversation is about the kindness, acceptance, and desire to understand those who are different than us.

I hope together, we have demonstrated (rather than solved this issue) that when the minority opinion-holders and the majority opinion-holders are willing to discuss, listen, and learn we are all better off: no suspicions, no animosity, no hurt feelings, just understanding the other person's beliefs and perhaps convictions.

To go further, you and I could not have had this conversation (we could have, but trying to demonstrate another point), if Miguel (who is our supreme power of this conversation) chose to deny either of us his space and time to approve our comments.

I consider you and Miguel my friends. I have learned from you many things through the years. You stretch my thinking and understanding, and in doing so increase my acceptance of opinions I have not even considered until you introduce it. I thank you for all you do to help our educational communities.

So whether it is Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Happy Kwanzaa, Enjoy Your Winter Break, Happy Holidays, or nothing at all - I wish you only the best. And Happy New Year too.
JeffS said…
"Could denying Christians the opportunity to have a school Christmas party be akin to denying Muslim students their right to fast during Ramadan? "


No, but you knew that right?

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