November 26, 2008
Yesterday’s Los Angeles Times carried a story about the latest school district to capitulate to the forces of political correctness. For 40 years, kindergarteners at two Claremont, California schools have celebrated Thanksgiving by dressing up as Pilgrims and Indians and sharing a common feast, with the location of the feast and the identity of the celebrants alternating between the two schools. This custom has harmed no one and given pleasure to many. But the custom died this year after one parent, Michelle Raheja, complained: “It’s demeaning. I’m sure you can appreciate the inappropriateness of asking children to dress up like slaves (and kind slave masters) or Jews (and friendly Nazis), or members of any other racial minority group who has struggled in our nation’s history.”
Even setting aside Raheja’s equation of the Pilgrims to Nazis, her argument is absurd: American kindergarteners have never dressed up as slaves and slave masters, or as Jews and Nazis, and I doubt American parents would ever allow them to. The reason that American school children have long dressed up as Pilgrims and Indians at Thanksgiving, to the enjoyment of school children and the approval of their parents, is that children have no trouble imagining themselves in either role, both of which are viewed positively in the context of the first Thanksgiving. The historical American attitude toward Indians is also far more complex than Raheja and her ideological allies would allow. Many Americans came to view Indians as worthy foes, which is why so many sports teams chose Indian mascots. No one ever chose as a mascot a symbol he despised, a fact ignored by the mirthless malcontents trying to force all sports teams to abandon Indian mascots.
This story is also of interest because it sheds light on the sort of people pushing political correctness. Raheja is “an English professor at UC Riverside,” and her “handful” of allies at the board meeting where the issue was debated included a person “who teaches at the University of Redlands, one [who] is an instructor at Riverside Community College, and one [who] is a former Pitzer College professor.” The real mission of too many of our educational institutions is leftist indoctrination, and these professors are merely carrying what they do in the classroom into the community, to the detriment of the kindergarteners of Claremont.
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