8 October 2009, by Rattus Scribus©
I will continue my series, "Happy and Appreciated" in a couple of days. But I thought that readers would be amused by this bit of hilarity, or moved to tears, one or the other.
It is embarrassing for those of us who make our living as educators to have to be associated with the kinds of glaringly inconsistent decisions that are made by our school officials and policy makers. Here's a spooky one: no more Halloween parties in school. "Fall Harvest" parties? You betcha! I feel ill, like I've OD'd on too much Hallow.., I mean Fall Harv..., you know, candy.
Renaming Halloween "Fall (Harvest) Party" out of some philosophical, constitutional, or religious conviction, or constituent pressure, only to let it function exactly as it had previous to the renaming (which many schools do), makes it look like we educators are petty, ignorant, capricious, or just plain stupid. Just the perfect message to send to our school children.
Refusing to let such a charge stand, what comes next is the attempt to rescue ourselves by responding that some schools do seek "Fall Party" alternatives to Halloween, such as allowing children to wear "positive" and politically correct costumes. That is, no demonic, slasher, or hideous Arab masks. President Bush masks, Hilary Clinton, Sarah Palin, Obama? No problem. Violent video game characters? Check.
Since ancient times, as Christianity spread, it smashed its cathedrals and "holy-days" upon pagan places and practices. Now modern sensibilities are smashing themselves upon existing traditions and claiming it is progress. Is it? Only if we ignore the fact that fall harvests are precisely the origins of many a pagan ritual since time immemorial. I guess it makes sense (in a creepy-organ-music-in-the-background sort of way) to replace an ancient pagan holiday with a modernized version and insist that no matter what anyone else says, it's different, and we're really, truly not insane.
I suppose, too, it makes sense if we ignore still another inconsistency that is related to an important goal of school: creating environments and conditions conducive to learning. For example, officials inform parents and their kids that the school has created new rules for snack or nutrition breaks to include less junk food and more healthy choices. Why? Because studies show that American school children eat far too much junk that, besides being bad for their health, raises their energy levels, which translates into class disruptions, lack of attention, and the like. Sounds logical, based on science and good pedagogy. Of course, we're teachers.
But then school systems add a spine tingling plot twist by saying it's OK to have an annual "Fall Party" or "Fall Harvest" to sugar-up and game-up kids beyond all capacity of classroom control for the next couple of hours. I'd be happy not to waste any school time with whatever you call it. That at least would be consistent with anti-Halloweenism and sound pedagogy. But who am I to say anything? I'm just the one who has to contain lightning and teach at the same time.
I suppose what really matters in the great cosmic scheme of things is that we don't call this Halloween because, according officials, it will upset some parents and policy makers who believe we should not celebrate that tradition. Apparently, that the sugar-laden treats are in the shape of foliage instead of phantasms, gobblers instead of goblins, must really ease their minds. Meanwhile, teachers are losing theirs. But let's look at the bright side. Maybe someone will manufacture masks for kids to wear on "Fall Harvest" day that look like their schizoid teachers. Sure, that wouldn't be as scary as Halloween.