First Noel Comes Last in Schools: Holidays Marked without Religion

By Bowman, Rex | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), December 20, 1996 | Go to article overview

First Noel Comes Last in Schools: Holidays Marked without Religion


Bowman, Rex, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


At James K. Polk Elementary School in Alexandria, fifth-graders this month tore up the old words to "The Twelve Days of Christmas" and crooned instead about "the 12 days of the holidays."

Another Polk student gave classmates a karate demonstration to the sweet strains of Tchaikovsky's "Nutcracker."

Welcome to the holidays in the area's public schools.

Jesus is out. The fighting Maccabees of Hanukkah - ancient history.

"Everything has a nonreligious basis to it," said Sherry Liebes, the principal of Gladys Noon Spellman Elementary in Cheverly. "We emphasize winter and seasonal celebrations."

With a trinity of seasonal celebrations - Hanukkah, Christmas and Kwanzaa - in December, plus holiday variations such as St. Lucia's feast and Los Pasados, area educators and students are feverishly involved in a profusion of extracurricular activities.

But don't expect to find much religious discourse or education.

According to a survey of more than 40 area schools, most educators avoid discussing the origins of Hanukkah and Christmas the way a gentleman might shun bootleg hooch, and for the same reasons - fear of running afoul of the law.

Snowflakes and sleigh bells, wreaths and reindeer, Jack Frost and Santa Claus have become the cultural icons of the classroom. School parties, door-decorating contests and choral assemblies stress the theme of December as a "winter wonderland." The holidays are lumped together and described as a "season of giving." Multiculturalism is the watchword.

"We call it our international winter celebration," said Darnell Wise Lightbourn, a second-grade teacher at Jamestown Elementary in Arlington.

"We kind of call it a time of sharing and caring," said Mary Barker, the principal of Fairfax's Beech Tree Elementary.

The constitutional language detailing the separation of church and state seems simple enough, but decades of battles in the courtroom between religious groups and civil liberties activists have left many educators confused about what they may and may not say about religion in the classroom.

In their effort to avoid being accused of preaching instead of teaching, many teachers are skipping the subject of how the holidays began, creating a lack of understanding among students of different backgrounds even as teachers stress multicultural themes, critics say.

"Some of them won't even use the word `Christmas,' " said Bill Mowers, the president of the Fairfax County chapter of the American Family Association. "In some cases they'd rather not mention it at all for fear of lawsuits."

After years of cases involving creches on public property, prayers at baccalaureate ceremonies and Bible study on school grounds, the courts have concluded that there is a place in school - though limited - for instruction about religion.

Students may sing traditional Christmas carols such as "Silent Night," but only as long as the intent is to impart knowledge about society's cultural and religious heritage. The song must be part of a bigger program that includes secular songs such as "Jingle Bells" or songs representing other religions, like "Oh Hanukkah. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

First Noel Comes Last in Schools: Holidays Marked without Religion
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.