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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Couple of SPS Updates

I think there may be an announcement soon of another top-level management person leaving the district.  My sources tell me this is pending.  I don't see any announcement yet at the SPS website.   I'll keep you updated. 
Also, there was this somewhat curious announcement at the website:


Seattle Schools' policy on religious holiday celebrations:
Seattle Public Schools has been receiving numerous questions regarding the District's policy on the celebration of religious holidays. We have a "Religion and Religious Accommodation" policy, approved by the School Board in 1983, stating that "no religious belief or non-belief should be promoted by the School District or its employees, and none should be disparaged."

There are no new District policies on religion or holiday observance guidelines. For more information,
Not sure why the district felt the need to be announcing this but someone (some group) must have been asking for something.

31 comments:

MAPsucks said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
MAPsucks said...

Holly's gotta show some product to justify her salary...

TechyMom said...

There's an item that's been in the national/international news about a teacher in a Seattle school wanting to call Easter Eggs "Spring Spheres." The "War on Christmas" contingent has picked this up an issue, and I expect that a great many people are calling SPS about it. Of course, answering these calls is the best possible use of our limited tax dollars.

Dorothy Neville said...

Perhaps that Easter Egg debacle.

KG said...

The Budget Director?

Chris S. said...

How about "chicken eggs?" Duh. Or duck. Rabbits, however, don't lay eggs.

SP said...

The "Spring Spheres" article came out in the Slog on Wed. 13th. It was so funny I thought someone would have mentioned it by now (and must be why the district posted their indirect response on the SPS homepage?):

School District Responds to Christians Angry About "Spring Spheres"
Posted by Dominic Holden on Wed, Apr 13, 2011 at 6:33 PM
As we now know, Seattle Public Schools refuses to call them "Easter Eggs" (preferring the nonreligious, although geometrically misnamed, "Spring Spheres"), which has summoned the hellwrath of Christians.

Today school officials posted this announcement: "Seattle Public Schools has been receiving numerous questions regarding the District's policy on the celebration of religious holidays. We have a 'Religion and Religious Accommodation' policy, approved by the School Board in 1983, stating that 'no religious belief or non-belief should be promoted by the School District or its employees, and none should be disparaged.'"

So there you have it: Christians are pissed and schools won't budge on their policy. And yeah, yeah, they aren't really spherical, the policy is all well and good, and colored springtime eggs have been around forever... but still, they're Easter eggs.

Anonymous said...

They could call them Vernal Equinox Eggs, or Spring Fertility Symbols...
SolvayGirl

Anonymous said...

Just kidding, of course!
SolvayGirl

bj said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
anonymous said...

Easter eggs? Wow. As usual a policy that was meant to protect peoples rights has gone to far, and has become ridiculous.

I really never understood why our schools weren't accepting of, and willing to celebrate ALL cultures and religions, instead of banning any trace of them?

In my perfect world schools would be decked out with Menoras, Kwanza unity cups, winter solstice decorations, Christmas trees, and any other cultural or religious symbols of the winter holidays!

seattle citizen said...

Peon, if schools celebrated any/all religions, they would be suggesting that they back religions, that religions are good (and that therefore the non-religious are bad.)

Schools are public; it is not the public institution's job to support religion, and it runs counter to inclusivity as it could easily be seen by a student as something that "should be done."

And of course, some would shanghai the whole thing for a particular religion (cough-Christianity-cough) and the whole "Christian nation" thing would rear its ugly head.

AND, most who wish for inclusivity don't really mean it: Satanism celebrated? Prob'ly not.

Jan said...

seattle citizen: yes -- but, schools are supposed to teach kids about their worlds, social customs, history, etc. Because religion was formerly the reason for a lot of activities, customs, etc. that we now observe, there really isn't a great way to teach kids about "life" without touching on religion.
Don't get me wrong. I don't want schools teaching christianity (or judaism, or islam, or whatever) -- because I care a LOT about one or more of those things, and don't trust them to teach it "right" (by MY version -- which of course, I have no right to foist off on kids in schools). But to not observe any of the celebrations at all, to rename them with clunky secular names on the grounds that it would otherwise be offensive, to me that is pedagogically unsound, teaches a form of "anti-religion" that is also unconstitutional, etc.

As for Satanism -- well, you can teach an awful lot of history, culture, social studies, etc. without getting into Satanism at all, as it has had virtually no effect on mainstream history or culture up to this point. Maybe that will change some day, and at that point, yes, kids may need to know something about Satanism to understand history and culture as well.

Always someone wanting access said...

Our school bulletin posts upcoming events (over 2 week span) each day.

I've recently noticed the bulletin has included Holy Week, Palm Sunday, Easter Sunday, Orthodox Easter, Passover and Ridvan.

I suspect it is ok because various religious groups are included. I suspect it is considered educational. ???

There are always religious organizations wanting access to our kids.

I go Ostrich Egg.

dj said...

Please. You will forgive me if I raise a skeptical eyebrow that a supposedly nameless private school caller logged this complaint against an elementary school she won't identify.

seattle citizen said...

Jan, I agree that aspects of religion can (and should) be taught where it is relevant to history, literature, etc.

Where I draw the line is "celebration," meaning the school officially sanctions an event or lesson that celebrates something religious. THAT is going to far. So no, I would not want a school to celebrate in any way any particular religious event or date. That's for the home and church or mosque, etc. There's a difference between teaching about something and actually including it in the lessons as something to be celebrated.

Renaming religious celebrations does seem bizarre, and, as you point out, might be construed as anti-religious, which would be equally bad: The point is for schools to maintain a strict neutrality on religion. Not for, not against. Schools have power to influence students (one hopes) and this power should not be used to teach (by example) that religion is to be celebrated or not celebrated. Mum's the word, methinks.

Similarly, allowing individual students to leave the room to pray or do some other sort of religious observance is fine. It's not an endorsement, it's merely acknowledging a student's reality. But to keep them from doing it would be anti-religious.

Me personally, I'm in favor of values education, slightly less controversial, but still a sticky wicket....

seattle citizen said...

Oh, and on Satanism - I think Arthur C. Clarke's novel Childhood's End would require a discussion of various world views of "satan" or "demons", perhaps a peek into Joseph Campbell's studies of myth and archetypes...Some of the central characters have large leather wings and horns, but not for the reason the people think...

Alwasy someone wants access said...

dj,
I had the same thought.
Wonder the name of the private nameless school.

whittier07 said...

I understand that there are religious/social implications to teaching about holidays but I have to say that I was shocked this past Thanksgiving when my niece (HS freshman) was clueless about the origins of Thanksgiving. She attends a public school in a very wealthy district (the kids are issued lap tops in high school) and their after school activities include horseback riding and golf. I gave her parents a hard time, still surprised that she hadn't picked up the info over 10 years in public school.

Isn't there a quote about knowing the past so we can better understand the future?

Melissa Westbrook said...

...there really isn't a great way to teach kids about "life" without touching on religion."

Seriously? I think from a historical basis, sure, but yes, I think you can teach a lot about life without bringing religion into it.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Always, is the school bulletin put out by the PTA or the school?

Someone always wants access said...

Melissa,

Considering the administrative secretary sends out the bulletin, I'd say it is school sponsored.

Seems odd.

Another One Bites the Dust said...

Top level administrator leaves:

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2014779087_martin15m.html

Should we go for two? said...

Maria Goodloe Johnson was fired on March 2, 2011.

I noticed a Ronald J. English updated his AVVO site on the same date.

Could this be our very own Ronald English?

http://www.avvo.com/attorneys/98124-wa-ronald-english-7885.html

Beth D said...

Regarding teaching about religions and religious holidays: I think the schools do a grave disservice if they do not teach students a basic understanding of the main holidays celebrated in our country. Our students shouldn't go through school without knowing the basics about both the religious and secular celebrations of Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, etc., especially since they are celebrated, in some fashion, by a majority of Americans.

Jan said...

seattle citizen: I totally agree on drawing the line at "celebrations." You captured it perfectly.

Melissa -- I am not saying that "life" requires religion. I am just saying that if you are going to teach kids, over the course of many years, about social life -- government, service organizations, community activities, etc. -- how can you really be realistic without acknowldging the part that religions (regardless of which ones) may play in the lives of various individuals or communities.

So, yes -- I think you can teach a LOT about "life" without bringing religion into it, but at some point, pretending that it just isn't there seems odd.

Melissa Westbrook said...

You don't "pretend" - you teach it in historical context.

Beth, could you name all the holidays and their meanings that you think should be taught in school?

Maureen said...

At our school every family does a 'family history' at some point during the kindergarten year and sometimes those include mention of religious beliefs and (probably more memorable) food related to a religious celebration (like apples and honey for Rosh Hashanah). That seems perfectly appropriate to me as it is not teacher (state employee) initiated.

For a long time, our school newsletter (Parent edited) included a short article on 'what are our families celebrating this month.' That gave the dates for tons of religious and cultural holidays, to help identify what might be going on in the community. If I remember correctly, it was initiated after we had scheduled a fall Site Council meeting two years in a row that conflicted with Yom Kippur. Since the official District calendar doesn't note religious holidays, relying on it for scheduling can lead you to offend people.

anonymous said...

That seems very reasonable to me, Maureen.

klh said...

...I just can't help bringing math into it...How well will this fit with the math curriculum, calling an egg shaped object a sphere? Argh - the geometry issue that is at stake here!

Patrick said...

Whittier07, the origins of Thanksgiving have been heavily mythologized. In Massachussets, it's about the Puritans celebrating their first harvest in the new world. In Virginia, it's about the first harvest of the Jamestown colonists. But it didn't become an
annual celebration in either place.

It became an annual celebration in 1864. Lincoln wanted to remind people once again of the 1863 victories at Vicksburg and Gettysburg, in the run-up to his 1864 reelection.