California Kindergarten Students Told Not to Dress Up for Thanksgiving

normal_thanks_giving_pilgrimsParents at Condit Elementary School in Claremont, California have forced the kindergarten to bar children from dressing in traditional Thanksgiving outfits as based on racial or ethic stereotypes. After 40 years of this tradition, no one Pilgrim hats, Indian outfits, or bonnets.

Michele Raheja, a mother of a kindergarten student and part Seneca insisted that “It’s demeaning. I’m sure you can appreciate the inappropriateness of asking children to dress up like slaves (and kind slave masters), or Jews (and friendly Nazis), or members of any other racial minority group who has struggled in our nation’s history. Raheja is an English professor at UC Riverside who specializes in Native American literature, and convinced educators that such displays were “dehumanizing” her daughter’s ancestry.

I must confess that I do not understand why the school would yield to this objection. Thanksgiving is portrayed as a celebration of cooperation between the settlers and Native Americans. The settlers were not analogous to “Nazis” as Raheja suggests. There was cooperation between the races and this celebrates that positive element. There is no question that the Native Americans were displaced and treated badly after the first settlers. However, this tradition recognizes the contribution of Native Americans as part of our culture.

Sometimes educators need to take a stand and educate parents. Our society is gradually being homogenized to squeeze out any symbol or expression that can be interpreted by anyone in a dark or offensive way. It is better to allow costumes and teach kids about authentic dress and traditions of both pilgrims and American Indians. We live in a pluralist society and we do not value that pluralism by preventing people from depicting the difference cultures or require every display to first satisfy those who claim to be from an affected group. Pluralism requires a bit of tolerance from all groups and no one should have a monopoly on how and when their culture is depicted.

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25 thoughts on “California Kindergarten Students Told Not to Dress Up for Thanksgiving”

  1. Gyges,

    My right to voice my opinion on what is and isn’t American and acceptable is the same as yours – the blessing of the Gods to be born American.

    If enough people agree with me, we’ll get it passed into law. If enough people agree with you we won’t. Democracy, you damn well better love it.

    Now when people chose to silence dissent I have an issue. Believe or not, Gyges, as much as we disagree – except possibly on beer – I’d happily butcher anyone who tried to forbid you from voicing your opinion of – unless it as solely and strictly in the context of you being disruptive to my private endeavors, which is a doubtful happenstance.

  2. Jonolan,

    I agree with you on this subject. I just won’t sit by while you time after time call people who disagree with you Un-American. Who are you to say what America’s Fundamental Nature is? Especially since it’s clear that America is a country made up of such a wide variety of cultures and values. The Framers themselves were divided on a variety of subjects: a strong verses a weak federal government, to allow slavery or not, if it was in the power of the state to levy taxes, if sedition laws were right or not, if a centralized bank was sound fiscal policy. So I ask you again, how is it that you decide what is American or anti-American?

  3. Gyges,

    You sadly missed my point entirely. It’s un-American to attack America’s fundamental nature. To use your latest example it would be like saying Mark Twain’s works can’t be read in school because they included racial stereotypes.

    America is about free expression, not silencing the majority because a few people might be offended.

    Other people in this thread have made this comment, but I’ll second it – we should be teaching the opposing view as well as the traditional one.

    Frankly, if you want or anyone wants to complain about Thanksgiving let’s complain about how it present such a narrow view of the colonization of America. What about Williamsburg or Roanoke or the Spanish colonies? There was more to early colonization than Puritans at Plymouth.

  4. Jonolan,

    You almost got the point. I could have just as easily asked: which is true American music, jazz, country, or composers like Ives; Midwestern Cooking V. Tex-mex; Mark Twain V. Langston Hughes; Clam Chowder V. Jambalaya.

  5. Gyges,

    Sadly the beer question is difficult. Which is more American. English top fermenting ales or Germanic bottom fermenting lagers? warm fermentation or cold?

    Personally I think the most American beer is a English style ale that has been lagered. 😉 That’s what Americans do; they take what works and assimilate it into a new whole, not maintain the separate original entities except as a referent.

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