by Jim Lang
Well, Christmas came early for Indiana teachers and our students.
After years of budget cuts and education legislation and rhetoric that would make Ebenezer Scrooge proud, one state senator is poised to finally address the most significant problem facing Hoosier schools today … the WAR ON CHRISTMAS!
First, you may notice I have capitalized the WAR ON CHRISTMAS! We all know this is necessary, as a WAR as significant and pervasive as this one requires extra EMPHASIS, as well as excessive use of EXCLAMATION POINTS!!
According to an article in the Indianapolis Star, state senator Jim Smith, R-Charlestown, will introduce legislation in January that would “preserve Christmas traditions in Indiana schools.”
Specifically, the legislation will protect public school educators who want to celebrate Christmas. As Smith said in a press release, Christmas is under attack, and Hoosier teachers fear acknowledging Christmas traditions in our classrooms because of potential lawsuits.
I think I speak for all educators when I state that this is a true CHRISTMAS MIRACLE!
After years of budget cuts, school closings, program cuts, larger class sizes, an increased emphasis on standardized testing, less local control of our schools, an increasingly convoluted teacher evaluation system, growing child poverty in Indiana, and education “reforms” that marginalize teachers’ voices and defy all current research and best practice, the good senator has swept in like Buddy the Elf to address my greatest frustration as a teacher and fight for my right to hang shiny ornaments on a plastic tree in my classroom.
Finally, we educators are once again empowered to fight the WAR ON CHRISTMAS! in our classrooms, just as our founders who sought religious freedom for all intended for us to do.
Imagine the immediate changes that will result if this legislation is passed.
Suddenly, for the first time ever, public school music programs (that haven’t been cut due to decreased funding) can FINALLY! invite the public to listen to holiday music at Christmas concerts.
Elementary art teachers (whose programs haven’t been cut due to decreased funding) can FINALLY! fill those three leftover minutes after standardized testing by letting the little tykes draw a Christmas tree, Santa Claus, or the Baby Jesus.
Educators can triumphantly wish our students a MERRY CHRISTMAS! or HAPPY HOLIDAYS!, confident that we no longer risk the danger of sacrificing our “highly effective” status, losing our twenty dollars of merit pay, or being fired or imprisoned as a result.
As Smith points out, “Christmas is under attack in a way that no other cultural traditions are.”
As a public school teacher who has watched school closings, program cuts, budget cuts, benefit cuts, larger class sizes, education “reforms” that have re-routed public tax dollars to private schools and failing charter schools, and a devaluing of the teaching profession by Indiana governors and legislators through their rhetoric and policies, it truly warms my heart that we have a legislator who is so willing to fight for a tradition that is so persistently under attack.