Christmas is a season replete with all kinds of strange and inexplicable kitsch. Lovely though they may be, lights, tinsel and trees are also pretty silly. However, most would be hard pressed to argue that all that paraphernalia actually does anyone any harm. Unless, that is, you happen to be the principal of a small elementary school in rural Nebraska.
Instead of indulging in all the sparkly rubbish that makes the holiday so special, Principal Jennifer Sinclair has decided to embark upon a one woman crusade against anything that could be construed as vaguely Christmassy. According reporting in The Takeout, the head of Manchester Elementary School penned a memo last week that advised teachers and staff on a list of “accepted and unacceptable holiday decorations and practices for classrooms.” This list allegedly included candy canes, which allegedly represent the blood and resurrection of Christ, reindeer and even Santa himself.
Sinclair added by way of explanation in the memo that the measure was designed to be “inclusive” and “culturally sensitive to all students”, rather than risk offending any sensibilities by over emphasising anything “Christmas-related”. The Takeout reported that this policy amounted to “any items that are red and green”.
Given the mania that seizes many people at this time of year, it was inevitable that complaints were going to be made. KETV in Omaha reported that rabid parents started to kick up a fuss almost immediately, and were eventually able to attract the attention of the Liberty Counsel - a group dedicated to promoting and championing religious freedom. It was after the latter got involved that Sinclair was placed on temporary leave.
In an angry statement to the press, Liberty Counsel representative Mat Staver declared Sinclair’s direction to be “most outrageous memo we’ve ever seen on Christmas.” As annoyed as they undoubtedly are, it does seem a little melodramatic to suggest that a candy cane ban is the most “outrageous” thing they’ve ever heard of. They might need to get out more and try to fight real injustices.
Despite their indignant platitudes, the Liberty Counsel found vocal support from the local school district. According to The Takeout, spokesperson Kara Perchal stated that, “the memo does not reflect the policy of Elkhorn Public Schools regarding holiday symbols in the school,” suggesting that they care as much about Santa as they do their students. Either way, the decision to ignore the great traditions of Christmas commercialism in the name of not leaving anyone else out may well have cost Principle Sinclair a job.
Inclusivity is of enormous important. In a time when we’re arguably more divided than ever, trying to do everything you can to bring people back together is not something to be ridiculed and dismissed out of hand. We should all be doing more to be open, especially at this time of year. That being said, banning Santa does seem a little extreme. After all, if we can’t worship at the feet of an old white man who owes his clothes to the branding power of an evil soft drink company, what’s the point of even having a holiday?