A Letter from the Editors

The importance of decentering one religion in classrooms

Sarah Liu and Claire Hardesty

Almost every student on the Peninsula is familiar with the holiday recital: you and your classmates dress up for Mom and Dad, filing into the MPR to sing Christmas carols. Occasionally there’s a Hanukkah or Kwanzaa song – if only to acknowledge that other holidays exist. While the holiday recital is just one part of the student experience, it’s time for us to recognize it as part of a larger issue: the tendency for our schools to center our education and celebrations on Christian beliefs.

Starting in elementary school, Christmas is the holiday that dominates the classroom. Yes, while the Peninsula’s student body is predominantly white (and by extension, Christian), it is not an adequate excuse to focus more time on Christmas. It can be seen in many classrooms around holiday time: Christmas trees hanging from ceilings, stockings stuck to windows. As a community and school district, it is essential that we include and celebrate holidays from all religions and not just one.

Along with this comes acknowledging the feelings of the students whose holidays are not celebrated in schools. The excitement a Christian child feels coloring a stocking that Santa will fill, won’t be felt by Jewish children who wonder why it is that their holiday is deemed second to Christmas. PVPUSD students had to fight for years to get Jewish holidays recognized. 

Whether it’s reciting the Pledge every morning or the lack of sex education outside of heterosexual relationships, Christianity has undoubtedly influenced our learning. In our textbooks, it’s a deciding factor in who gets called a “savage” or not. It’s the reason the California missions unit was centered more on building dioramas, not natives facing colonization, disease and forced labor. 

Dedicating a lesson to holiday traditions is not often feasible at the high school level, making it only more important for elementary school educators to break this cycle of Christmas-centric classrooms. Teachers of children in developing ages should incorporate the ideals and traditions of all religions to make every child feel included in the holiday spirit and give them a chance to be celebrated. 

It’s time that we give up on forcing one religion’s traditions on everyone and instead celebrate all holidays to an equal extent. Treating Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Las Posadas and Diwali like we treat Christmas is essential to our growth. 

The number of students does not correlate to the personal significance of customs and traditions. A single Menorah or Kinara is not representation. Significant class time to learn about other cultures as a necessary part of personal growth and understanding is.