November 18 2013
Thanksgiving Controversies are Brewing in Schools
Vicki E. Alger
Those of us of a certain age will recall classroom Thanksgiving activities that included making turkeys by tracing our hands on construction paper. Times have certainly changed.
In recent years several public schools made national headlines for officials’ over-the-top anti-Thanksgiving positions. Dressing up as Pilgrims was banned in two Claremont, California, elementary schools. The principal of the John F. Kennedy Elementary School in Somerville, Massachusetts, banned Thanksgiving and Columbus Day activities in a stern email to school staff. Seattle public schools also deemed Thanksgiving a day a mourning that was not to be celebrated
Now Karen Schroeder, President of Advocates for Academic Freedom, reports that Wisconsin public school students are in for a heaping helping of Thanksgiving guilt:
A Thanksgiving lesson that teaches hate, fear, and racism rather than collaboration, diversity, and respect for truth has been prepared for students in Wisconsin K-5 classrooms.
According to the Department of Public Instruction website, this approach was first recommended in 1977 [see here]. This Thanksgiving lesson is based upon a “likelihood, the ‘First Thanksgiving’ in colonial America was proclaimed in 1637 to commemorate the murder of approximately 700 Pequot Indians at Mystic Fort.” This disgusting hypothesis is based on the admitted supposition of the late Professor William Newell of the University of Connecticut. …
For any State Superintendent of Education to encourage policies that teach kindergarten children that many of their ancestors would feast to celebrate the slaughter of other human beings is infuriating.
Elsewhere Schroeder details the misinformation behind the anti-Thanksgiving campaign, based on a curriculum supported by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction and developed in consultation with the U.S. Department of Education:
Missing facts include but are not limited to: the first recorded Thanksgiving with Native Americans was in 1621—NOT the 1637 date preferred by the professor. Native Americans…too, were immigrants from other continents. …
When a federal test question is aligned to a federal standard which teaches that the first American Thanksgiving was a celebration of the slaughter of 700 Pequot Indians, that concept will also be the only acceptable answer to a test question on that subject. This prevents teachers and parents from teaching their children the truth.
Greater numbers of parents and children want out of a school system that is growing more politicized as the federal government assumes greater control of the standards, curricula, and testing materials. As Yahoo News’ Carol Bengle Gilbert wrote two years ago:
Public schools have been upending American traditions for more than a decade, imposing bans or restrictions on activities many hold dear. The bans and restrictions are often accomplished by fiat, without the consensus of the communities on which they're imposed. …But while political correctness is used to justify taking aim at holidays, the bigger problem may be the lack of public decision-making- and accurate fact-finding- behind them.
Now that the federal government is pushing standards that enshrine a political agenda, parental choice is the best way to ensure children have access to a solid and academically rigorous education—instead of the anemic, politicized schooling too many schoolchildren have now.