I wouldn’t mind a day off from school to learn about Indian food. But can we also observe the Easter Bunny too?
According to the Times of India, public schools of New York may observe the Hindu religious holiday Diwali. The New York City Council has introduced a resolution calling upon the city’s department of education to establish Diwali as an official holiday for all public school students, regardless of religious background, said Rajan Zed, the US-based president of Universal Society of Hinduism.
Rajan applauded the move, explaining that awareness about other religions that such holidays would promote diversity natch (is he kidding?) and help make New York City public school pupils well-nurtured, well-balanced, and enlightened citizens – give me a minute while I stop laughing. A day off from school promotes nothing but a day off from school – which let me say is not necessarily a bad thing if you’re getting force fed state run propaganda about multiculturalism and cultural relativism. But let’s not think that New York City’s non-Hindu public school students are going to give a rat’s ass about Diwali. Don’t get me wrong, I love India and Indian culture and religion and all its breathtaking beauty, immenseness and even its problems. But I would not expect New York City public school students to share these sentiments just because they got a day off and had their school year extended even further into the summer to make up the mandatory number of days they have to take in state mandated “education.”
Zed said his organization has also issued an appeal to all school districts across US to declare Diwali as school holiday. Fat chance, buddy. He said, “Since it was important for Hindu families to celebrate Diwali together at home, we did not want our children to be deprived of any privileges at the school (what privileges would that be?) because of it resulting into their being marked absent. Closing schools on Diwali would ensure that all Hindu children celebrate the festival with their families,” he said.
I doubt that Diwali will make it onto the New York City public school calendar, since the only religious holidays that are explicitly celebrated in New York public schools are Jewish.
In 2009 when Muslims tried to push through Muslim holiday school closings, Mayor Bloomberg rejected the move, despite the Department of Education approval, saying, ”One of the problems you have with a diverse city is that if you close the schools for every single holiday there won’t be any school. Educating our kids requires time in the classroom and that’s the most important thing to us.” About 10-12% of New York City Schools are made up of Muslims children.
The ban stayed in place when Bloomberg won a third term the same year – banishing the Village Voice’s hope that two Muslim Holidays would be celebrated when the Bloomberg administration ended at midnight December 31, 2009. They were wrong.
The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, as interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court, require separation of church and state, meaning that federal, state, and local governments cannot establish an official religion, impede religious expression, promote religion as superior to secularism or vice-versa. However, one of the functions of the federal, state, and local governments and the public school systems is to declare holidays. Two federal holidays have religious connotations: Easter and Christmas.
New York City and probably many other school systems have taken the position that only Jewish holidays should be explicitly celebrated and recognized, which is obvious by reading its own calendar (see below).
It was during the 1950′s that New York City began closing for the Jewish High Holidays when the percentage of Jewish teachers and substitutes citywide was so high, some schools had to combine classes or hold assemblies to compensate for their absence. However, demographic shifts have occurred since then, and I would be surprised if there were more Jewish students left in New York City public schools, or Jewish teachers for that matter, anymore.
Today, according to a 2011 demographic report, Hispanics account for the largest student population in the schools, at 40%, with blacks following at about 30%, Asians are around 15%, and whites fall at around 14%. I assume most Jewish people, when pressed, would say they were white, so of that 14% – how many are Jewish?
Let’s extrapolate backwards: The current Jewish population of New York City is 1,618,320. About 8 million people live in New York City. There are approximately 380 private Jewish schools in New York State, attended by about 124,000 children. Brooklyn, New York, has the highest concentration of Jewish schools of any place outside of Israel. Over 150 schools cater to every sect of Judaism you care to name, according to About.com. This long list of the schools in Brooklyn alone, with student counts, numbers in the several thousand. I just do not think that there are all that many Jewish kids who go to the New York City public schools any more. Of course, in the 1950s and even into the 1960s New York public schools were excellent, they had standards and multiculturalism had not infected the classroom. Students learned. Expectations were given and met.
At any rate, here is the way the New York City school calendar is explained (not every holiday is listed here, I left off things like Columbus Day and Labor Day, which are not religious holidays):
Rosh Hashanah (2 days)
Yom Kipper (1 day)
Winter Recess (NOT Christmas)
Spring Recess (NOT Good Friday, Easter, and Passover)
Final prediction: If the Diwali holiday proposal comes before Mayor Bloomberg, he will reject it (I mean allowing the Hindus to close the schools when there are far fewer of them than Muslims would create a major Holy War in the streets of Manhattan) but when Christine Quinn becomes mayor and returns New York to the 1970s and 1990s, then yes, she’ll have school closed for every religious holiday she can think of – except for Christmas and Easter. Which will make no one happy – except the kids who don’t have to go to school. Parents who work, however, will be hard put to figure out how best to use their sick and vacation days, if they actually get them since most of them will by then be reduced to part time workers so employers can avoid the cost of Obamacare.
The best solution is to get the government out of the education business – then people, and communities, can organize their educational pursuits in any way they see fit. Including the Hindu community.