When is 20% > 80%?

sarahzm said:

But that is what happened when they removed Halloween.
Halloween IS NOT a religious practice. It is a cultural practice with a long tradition. Just because there are people who have religious objections to that practice does not make it a religious practice. No secular part of the school curriculum, or of school life - academic or otherwise should be eliminated because of religious objections of anyone.
By eliminating the Halloween parade, the principal is imposing on the community the religious objections by a few to a secular, tradition celebration. I find that deeply objectionable.

Well said. It is a slippery slope.


campbell29 said:
There are some religious objections. Certain fundamentalist groups consider Halloween to be "devil worship" why? I have no idea, but that is why some parents won't let their children participate

This is interesting. I am curious about all the religions (represented in the town) that object to Halloween.

I do know that (Orthodox) Jews don't celebrate Halloween due to (in part) the Christian roots of the holiday. (Plus Jews have a holiday - Purim - that allows everyone to wear a costume, so Halloween just seems redundant!)


Respectfully, Halloween doesn't have Christian roots. It is a pagan/Wiccan/Northern European celebration.


Just out of curiosity, for all those people against the cancellation,what are the benifits of keeping the halloween parade?


This issue is bigger than the Halloween Parade. The issue is bigger than the hurt feelings of a child ( of course that is important - and should be addressed). The issue is that in our free society no one's religious beliefs should ever be imposed on anyone else. In the big picture, that is what happened when the Seth Boyden Halloween Parade was canceled.

I am not telling people what is or isnt against their religion. If there are people who because of their own religious beliefs see the school Halloween Parade as a religious observance , of course they are free to believe what they wish and to opt out. But to cancel a secular cultural celebration because there are those who see it as religious (when to those participating it is not) is to impose those beliefs on others. Do you see the difference.

Of course I have compassion for the children who are not allowed to participate. I agree that this is a very difficult situation. It's a tough choice. I think a better direction would be Joan's approach, to find equally attractive activity for those whose families personal religious objections prevent them from participating in this secular, cultural event.

For me it is this principle above all else, that no person or group's religious objections should EVER, EVER dictate policy for the greater society.

I understand that the secular, cultural celebration of Halloween evolved over many years from the religious observance of All Saints Day. Even so, that history does not make the elementary school Halloween parade a religious observance. Dressing up in costume and parading around the school has never been a religious practice. There may be those who see it as such and object, but to cancel because of those objections is to impose those religious beliefs on others NOT THE OTHER WAY AROUND.

I challenge anyone in Maplewood and South Orange to find just one child who participates in the school Halloween parade as part of a religious or spiritual practice. If you can find that person, I'd like to know, exactly what the religious meaning and significance of the Halloween Parade has in their spiritual life and religious tradition. There are those who don't see it that way. They are free to object because of their own personal beliefs, but those objections based on their own personal beliefs should never ever inform school policy. The religious objections of any individual or group to cultural celebration do not magically turn that cultural celebration into a religious observance even though, generations ago it may have evolved from a religious practice.


ctrzaska said:


dave said:
Thanksgiving (Erntedankfest) is associated with Christianity and is at least on par with Halloween in terms of religious associations. I wonder if the fools cancelling Halloween will be consistent with their idiocy and ban turkey images.
Hand tracings will be next if SB is planning on being consistent, clearly. Personally I think the students should be assigned The Golden Bough to read at home (abridged, of course), and the parents could write an essay on the tradition of their choice and share it with the classes. Better yet, in lieu of a traditional and innocuous national elementary school celebration, Quiles could come in dressed as the Fisher King and sit by the parents in the withered butterfly garden (presuming there's no storm runoff nearby), reading to the children while the PTA heads ponder this year's harvest

Wow. Haven't seen a GB reference in some time. I always thought it should be updated to include The Silmarillion.


It's a tough one. I get the argument that people opposed to Halloween shouldn't be bringing their religious beliefs into the school. However, the principal seems to be saying that, for whatever reason, 100 people are not comfortable with the practice, and he doesn't want 100 people in his school to be uncomfortable. Looked at it from that perspective, his decision seems reasonable.

It seems that every day there's a new controversy in this town. Recently it's been whether or not stores should be selling Brooklyn pillows. What will it be next week?


sarahzm said:
This issue is bigger than the Halloween Parade. The issue is bigger than the hurt feelings of a child ( of course that is important - and should be addressed). The issue is that in our free society no one's religious beliefs should ever be imposed on anyone else. In the big picture, that is what happened when the Seth Boyden Halloween Parade was canceled.
I am not telling people what is or isnt against their religion. If there are people who because of their own religious beliefs see the school Halloween Parade as a religious observance , of course they are free to believe what they wish and to opt out. But to cancel a secular cultural celebration because there are those who see it as religious (when to those participating it is not) is to impose those beliefs on others. Do you see the difference.
Of course I have compassion for the children who are not allowed to participate. I agree that this is a very difficult situation. It's a tough choice. I think a better direction would be Joan's approach, to find equally attractive activity for those whose families personal religious objections prevent them from participating in this secular, cultural event.
For me it is this principle above all else, that no person or group's religious objections should EVER, EVER dictate policy for the greater society.
I understand that the secular, cultural celebration of Halloween evolved over many years from the religious observance of All Saints Day. Even so, that history does not make the elementary school Halloween parade a religious observance. Dressing up in costume and parading around the school has never been a religious practice. There may be those who see it as such and object, but to cancel because of those objections is to impose those religious beliefs on others NOT THE OTHER WAY AROUND.
I challenge anyone in Maplewood and South Orange to find just one child who participates in the school Halloween parade as part of a religious or spiritual practice. If you can find that person, I'd like to know, exactly what the religious meaning and significance of the Halloween Parade has in their spiritual life and religious tradition. There are those who don't see it that way. They are free to object because of their own personal beliefs, but those objections based on their own personal beliefs should never ever inform school policy. The religious objections of any individual or group to cultural celebration do not magically turn that cultural celebration into a religious observance even though, generations ago it may have evolved from a religious practice.

Sarahzm - as always the voice of reason. Though my kids are now mid 30 adults, I remember the excitement and joy that got in selecting their costumes for the Marshall Halloween parade. It makes me said that these SB students won't experience that delight. An alternative secular (alotough the parade IS secular as far as I can see) should be offered to those kids who's parents won't let them participate is the way to go, not cancellation.


Shoshana said:

This is interesting. I am curious about all the religions (represented in the town) that object to Halloween.
I do know that (Orthodox) Jews don't celebrate Halloween due to (in part) the Christian roots of the holiday. (Plus Jews have a holiday - Purim - that allows everyone to wear a costume, so Halloween just seems redundant!)

The roots of Halloween (Samhain) are Pagan not Christian. The holiday (All Saints Day) was adopted by the Roman Catholic church in the 8th century


I expect that my kids might be exposed to things they are uncomfortable with all throughout their lives (religious or otherwise) and they need to learn how to either respectfully decline to participate (understanding that others have a different custom or viewpoint), or learn to participate respectfully (to develop a greater understanding of how valid others viewpoints and customs are), from an early age. How can they learn how to be respectful of other viewpoints if they are shielded from those viewpoints, customs and traditions constantly?

I have traveled to the Middle East a considerable amount, and while I'm not Muslim, I have a deep respect for the local traditions and customs (which one must have in order to conduct business there).

My fear is that we raise a generation of kids who are not learning that. And all of society loses if that happens.


I strongly object to Halloween opposers who think the devil and the occult are real things to begin with.


sarahzm said:

I challenge anyone in Maplewood and South Orange to find just one child who participates in the school Halloween parade as part of a religious or spiritual practice. If you can find that person, I'd like to know, exactly what the religious meaning and significance of the Halloween Parade has in their spiritual life and religious tradition. There are those who don't see it that way. They are free to object because of their own personal beliefs, but those objections based on their own personal beliefs should never ever inform school policy. The religious objections of any individual or group to cultural celebration do not magically turn that cultural celebration into a religious observance even though, generations ago it may have evolved from a religious practice.

Once again, it doesn't matter if you or any other child who participates thinks it's religious. For them it's religious and that's all that matters. And like I said it's not the only reason kids don't participate. The point is over 100 children don't participate in an optional activity that has no educational value. It doesn't make sense for our community. It is not district policy or curriculum to celebrate Halloween.


So no classroom should have an end of year generic holiday celebration or hand out Valentine's cards either? Great. It sucks being a kid these days.


Get back to your desks!


ArchBroad said:
So no classroom should have an end of year generic holiday celebration or hand out Valentine's cards either? Great. It sucks being a kid these days.

Honestly, you really believe that? The kids are fine, the adults are whining.


darn it, I thought this was a math thread.

apple44 said:
It's a tough one. However, the principal seems to be saying that, for whatever reason, 100 people are not comfortable with the practice, and he doesn't want 100 people in his school to be uncomfortable. Looked at it from that perspective, his decision seems reasonable.

Both my kids were opt-in SB, and we all loved the Halloween parade. But as apple44 says, this is a decision that was made with the SB parent community for the SB community. I don't think Mr. Quiles has any anti-American, PC commitment to undermining the foundations of U.S. culture (as if that's what Halloween represents). There are plenty of opportunities for SB kids to celebrate Halloween if their families so wish. We aren't hearing those parents up in arms demanding more candy and more parades for their kids. Remember, it's just Halloween. Democracy is not at peril here, and in fact, there are many teaching opportunities about how a democracy must balance majority preferences with the rights of a smaller group of citizens. Maybe the non-SB parents can just take a deep breath and let it go? Or, this being SOMa, not. grin


apple44 said:
It's a tough one. I get the argument that people opposed to Halloween shouldn't be bringing their religious beliefs into the school. However, the principal seems to be saying that, for whatever reason, 100 people are not comfortable with the practice, and he doesn't want 100 people in his school to be uncomfortable. Looked at it from that perspective, his decision seems reasonable.

I think this is key...the school leadership believes that this is the right answer for this school, and that matters. I'm honestly not a fan of the Halloween parade (at a different local elementary) for purely logistic reasons...the event is a mess. Some kids are scared, school door security was a disaster as a large crush of adults who hadn't checked in poured into the school after the parade (I was at a door, trying to maintain order).

A significant chunk of the school day was lost to something that had no academic value. For the kids who really love Halloween, this parade was simply an appetizer to the local parades, trick-or-treating and parties they would attend later. For families tight on money, or not as keen on Halloween the event becomes a display of which families invest the most time/money on costumes.

I don't love the "80% want it" and "it is now secular so shouldn't matter" arguments, because I remember the same arguments being used to support allowing all of the secular elements of Christmas in our schools. If you want your children to observe Easter, Christmas, Halloween, Purim, Yom Kippur, Ramadan, or anything else in a certain way, make sure that YOU are doing it well in your home and community.

(In our Conservative Jewish home, we do Halloween Lite...make your own costume from whatever we have around, gather and eat a bit of candy, but not a greater investment of energy than we have just put into the fall cycle of Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Sukkot and Simchat Torah)

Modern American society seems to be elevating three secularized festivals of consumption -- SantaTime, BunnyDay, and Halloween. The level of consumption, advertising, gifts and candy surrounding these days seems to have increased dramatically in the years I've been alive. They are profoundly assimilationist holidays for children, because so much of the cultural focus is on sweets and decoration (while the harder religious and ethical elements, if any, stay at home and church).

I actually would love to see our secular schools not honor and promote the consumer consumption elements of these holidays, unmoored from what they mean in communities of faith large or small. Make our schools a place separate from majority and minority holidays, and focus on Fall Festivals, Carnivals, Service Days, and other events that are inclusive of everyone, not just those who want to assimilate to the big tradition of secularized Christianity. We are creative enough to make this fun for all kids (rather than just creating a nicer consolation-prize event).

Sometimes I think that many of my fellow citizens wear our "diversity" like a designer handbag -- loving that they have it, because it makes them look good and feel good about themselves, until the day when it is unwieldy for some reason. Suddenly on the day when respecting diversity chafes a bit, they start loudly proclaiming that whatever 80% wants should be fine for everyone, that their childhood ways are the right ways, and that those who don't like it can go sit quietly in a corner.

Respect for diversity isn't window dressing for our nice liberal suburban lives...it is an ongoing dialog about how make the world a better place for all of us, even when the changes needed are uncomfortable for some of us, or even feel like losses.

Making diversity work for people who are Christian, Jew, Muslim, Witness, Wiccan, gay, straight, queer, trans, white, black, brown, asian, native-born, immigrant, rich, poor, physically disabled, learning disabled, on the Spectrum, etc., etc., etc. IS NOT EASY. It requires work, every day, and sometimes requires giving up the way we did things when we were children.

Each decision (Halloween Parades, Christmas Songs, which days to close schools, which bathroom trans youth should use, how to manage levels, etc. etc.) needs to be taken with respect for the dignity of youth, the situations of their families, the academic mission of the school, the District's painful financial situation, school safety and security needs, and a host of other issues in an atmosphere of REAL respect for diversity, not just enjoyment of diversity as a decoration for our lives.

(having said my piece, I'm going to do my best to drop out of this debate, since it is SO much less important than our educational debates about leveling, Special Education, our AWOL G&T program, BOE elections, or our cratering school budget)


mjh said:


The kids are fine, the adults are whining.

This is true of so many controversies. For example, the angst about participation trophies in youth sports - I can assure you that kids who stick with sports into high school are keenly aware of the difference between winning and participating.


OK, I do sound like an old man now... It's been happening alot lately. I'm out.

mjh said:


ArchBroad said:
So no classroom should have an end of year generic holiday celebration or hand out Valentine's cards either? Great. It sucks being a kid these days.
Honestly, you really believe that? The kids are fine, the adults are whining.

susan1014 said:


apple44 said:
It's a tough one. I get the argument that people opposed to Halloween shouldn't be bringing their religious beliefs into the school. However, the principal seems to be saying that, for whatever reason, 100 people are not comfortable with the practice, and he doesn't want 100 people in his school to be uncomfortable. Looked at it from that perspective, his decision seems reasonable.
I think this is key...the school leadership believes that this is the right answer for this school, and that matters. I'm honestly not a fan of the Halloween parade (at a different local elementary) for purely logistic reasons...the event is a mess. Some kids are scared, school door security was a disaster as a large crush of adults who hadn't checked in poured into the school after the parade (I was at a door, trying to maintain order).
A significant chunk of the school day was lost to something that had no academic value. For the kids who really love Halloween, this parade was simply an appetizer to the local parades, trick-or-treating and parties they would attend later. For families tight on money, or not as keen on Halloween the event becomes a display of which families invest the most time/money on costumes.
I don't love the "80% want it" and "it is now secular so shouldn't matter" arguments, because I remember the same arguments being used to support allowing all of the secular elements of Christmas in our schools. If you want your children to observe Easter, Christmas, Halloween, Purim, Yom Kippur, Ramadan, or anything else in a certain way, make sure that YOU are doing it well in your home and community.
(In our Conservative Jewish home, we do Halloween Lite...make your own costume from whatever we have around, gather and eat a bit of candy, but not a greater investment of energy than we have just put into the fall cycle of Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Sukkot and Simchat Torah)
Modern American society seems to be elevating three secularized festivals of consumption -- SantaTime, BunnyDay, and Halloween. The level of consumption, advertising, gifts and candy surrounding these days seems to have increased dramatically in the years I've been alive. They are profoundly assimilationist holidays for children, because so much of the cultural focus is on sweets and decoration (while the harder religious and ethical elements, if any, stay at home and church).
I actually would love to see our secular schools not honor and promote the consumer consumption elements of these holidays, unmoored from what they mean in communities of faith large or small. Make our schools a place separate from majority and minority holidays, and focus on Fall Festivals, Carnivals, Service Days, and other events that are inclusive of everyone, not just those who want to assimilate to the big tradition of secularized Christianity. We are creative enough to make this fun for all kids (rather than just creating a nicer consolation-prize event).
Sometimes I think that many of my fellow citizens wear our "diversity" like a designer handbag -- loving that they have it, because it makes them look good and feel good about themselves, until the day when it is unwieldy for some reason. Suddenly on the day when respecting diversity chafes a bit, they start loudly proclaiming that whatever 80% wants should be fine for everyone, that their childhood ways are the right ways, and that those who don't like it can go sit quietly in a corner.
Respect for diversity isn't window dressing for our nice liberal suburban lives...it is an ongoing dialog about how make the world a better place for all of us, even when the changes needed are uncomfortable for some of us, or even feel like losses.
Making diversity work for people who are Christian, Jew, Muslim, Witness, Wiccan, gay, straight, queer, trans, white, black, brown, asian, native-born, immigrant, rich, poor, physically disabled, learning disabled, on the Spectrum, etc., etc., etc. IS NOT EASY. It requires work, every day, and sometimes requires giving up the way we did things when we were children.
Each decision (Halloween Parades, Christmas Songs, which days to close schools, which bathroom trans youth should use, how to manage levels, etc. etc.) needs to be taken with respect for the dignity of youth, the situations of their families, the academic mission of the school, the District's painful financial situation, school safety and security needs, and a host of other issues in an atmosphere of REAL respect for diversity, not just enjoyment of diversity as a decoration for our lives.
(having said my piece, I'm going to do my best to drop out of this debate, since it is SO much less important than our educational debates about leveling, Special Education, our AWOL G&T program, BOE elections, or our cratering school budget)

Is this really about diversity, or the belief system of a small group of people who think that anyone who dons a Spider-Man costume is worshipping the devil? Suppose tomorrow I start a campaign against Thanksgiving, which by the way, would protest said holiday as the beginning of the end for native cultures on this continent. This is an actual fact, and far more real and impactful to millions of people than a fictitious devil.


Well, since there's no school-sponsored Thanksgiving parade, your theoretical campaign doesn't really make sense in this context.


Annielou

I think that if we are going to embrace diversity, we have to be careful about getting judgmental about which diversity is worthy of protection.

If I'm going to expect people to be sensitive of my needs/beliefs as a Jew, I can't be too quick to be dismissive of the needs/beliefs of Jehovah's Witnesses, which I'm assuming are driving this.

Also, based on the door-to-door Witness efforts I've seen around here, we have to be careful that we aren't being more sensitive to the needs of white upper-middle-class minorities than those of poorer darker-complexioned minorities. (I could be wrong on this, but am guessing from the Witnesses who've come by my door a few times this year)

FWIW, if you are actually concerned about Thanksgiving (rather than just grandstanding), then I would be more than ready to start a discussion about how it should be treated in our schools. The situation is a bit different than Halloween, since it is much more directly linked to American history, both inspiring and ugly.


annielou said:
Suppose tomorrow I start a campaign against Thanksgiving, which by the way, would protest said holiday as the beginning of the end for native cultures on this continent.

Under current practice, the principal and parent reps would give your campaign careful consideration and deliberation and then reach a decision.


I went to a Catholic high school that celebrated Mass every Friday. By the time I was a sophomore, I had had my split with the Church and didn't want to attend a Mass I didn't believe in. There were several students who had the same belief and we were excused from attending Mass -- we sat in the Library and studied because of our CHOICE of not attending Mass.

Why not have the schools do what corporate America does? Have "personal days". If you don't want to participate in an activity for WHATEVER reason (including "I don't feel like it"), the kid can stay home. Let's start training our kids for the "real world" -- the earth won't stop turning because you don't believe in centrifugal force.


My objection is more philosophical than practical. In the end I believe the Seth Boyden parents and administration should do what they think is best without my interference. I respect that they are putting the feelings of the children first. I don't blame them for that. If I were faced with crying children I might do the same thing.

But people have it backwards. It is not respecting diversity when my religious objections are imposed on you, even if it is just a Halloween parade.


Just a little context from a former SB parent:

It seems to me that this is about school community, and this has *always* been a focus of Mr. Quiles.

When my first child started at SB, there was an unnecessary division between opt-in and zoned kids that was re-inforced daily because of the busing arrangement. Opt-in kids were dropped off and picked up on Jacoby Street, behind the school and at the far end of the large schoolyard. They frequently arrived late to class, and had to be dismissed a few minutes early to get the bus. They slogged in mud, snow and ice. There were clearly two categories of students.

Mr. Quiles arrived the next year and just about the first thing he did--before school even started--was change that. He negotiated a different bus schedule, and arranged for improvements to the front driveway so busses could access it.

The result was that all kids arrived and were dismissed at the front of the school. Kids have morning line-up before the first bell together, and walk into their classrooms together.

It made a huge difference in the feeling of being *one* school community.

It seems to me that the Halloween festivities have become something similar.

Some kids have always sat out the celebrations. But at this point there is critical mass of kids who aren't participating and it creates the two categories of students problem again.

The best thing for the school community and the all the kids is to let this one go, and focus on experiences that all can share together.

And, it's clear this is a school-based decision--not a general argument about the value or appropriateness of Halloween activities.


sarahzm said:
My objection is more philosophical than practical. In the end I believe the Seth Boyden parents and administration should do what they think is best without my interference. I respect that they are putting the feelings of the children first. I don't blame them for that. If I were faced with crying children I might do the same thing.
But people have it backwards. It is not respecting diversity when my religious objections are imposed on you, even if it is just a Halloween parade.

What Sarah said. Also, including a Halloween parade is not at all an integral part of education. It's a "nice to have" that is not so nice for a significant portion of our community. The PTA and administration at Seth Boyden didn't make this decision in a vacuum. It was discussed and thought out over a period of time. I recall seeing unhappy children sitting in the library there when my kids (now in college) were at SB and wondering about it. My kids had plenty of other chances to celebrate Halloween, so would not have been negatively affected by removing that event from school.


Anyone who thinks Halloween promotes religion is being willfully obtuse.


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