Teaching Reflections · Topics for Parents and Students · Uncategorized

Black and Orange Day: Censoring Canadian Culture in Schools

When my daughter started ELK in the fall of 2014, I was excited for her to attend my childhood school and have all the wonderful experiences that I had as a child. But schools have changed since 1984. That became painfully clear as Halloween approached and parents received a letter home that costumes would not be allowed, and instead students would be able to wear ‘black and orange’.

*Author’s note: Since this blog was written, black and orange day has never been held at my children’s school in lieu of costumes. This was a one time attempt  at the transition that failed miserably.

Not sure if I missed something, but the last time I checked, ‘Black and Orange Day’ was not a holiday. I was very annoyed, as many other parents were. Reasoning for the said change in customs ranged from trying to include students who did not celebrate Halloween to the problem of teachers being responsible for costumes. In speaking to other parents, I learned that many planned on ignoring the letter and sending their children in costumes anyways. I followed suit, and when I picked my daughter up at the end of the school day on October 31st that year, I saw every student in her class wearing a costume. A silent revolution, you’d say. The next October, no letter about ‘Black and Orange Day’ came home, and the status quo of students wearing costumes and celebrating Halloween returned.

My daughter’s school has a very (ahem) loud parent voice – lots of pushy educated parents. You know, the types that call and email and don’t go away – many stay at home mothers with university degrees. So, Halloween flourishes, as does a vibrant Holiday concert (where the word ‘Noel’ is freely used throughout). But this school and ones like it seem to be the exception these days. More and more schools are choosing to censor Canadian holiday traditions such as Halloween (see @NationalPost article), Christmas (see another @NationalPost article) and even Mother and Father’s Day (see @globalnews article)  and that’s a shame.

Why is it that as Canadians we can’t stand up for our cultural traditions without being labeled as marginalizing minorities, and infringing others rights? We are just too polite and accommodating – so much so, that our cultural traditions are now fading from our schools.

As a multicultural society, we do have to be sensitive to other cultures and minorities in our midst, but not by ignoring our own cultural traditions. Schools are reflections of society. If we allow holidays to vanish from or be transformed in our schools, what are we teaching this generation of children about our Canadian cultural traditions? How will they carry these on to the next generations?

As an alternative, why not educate about holidays instead of censor them. For Halloween, perhaps students could learn about it’s history – from both the Celtic and Christian traditions. The history channel actually has a fantastic short film on this right now, available: here. Moreover, for the December holiday season, students could learn about a variety of winter holidays from various cultures, then share them in a holiday concert. Educationworld.com has a great page on their website about this topic available: here. For Mother and Father’s Day, students can learn about how many people can be ‘Mothers’ and ‘Fathers’ from biological ties, to grandparents, to step parents, etc. Censoring or cancelling holiday traditions really isn’t the answer when teaching about them is so easy.

As Canadians we need to stand up for keeping our traditional holiday celebrations in our schools – or we will lose them. After the holidays, then what’s next? The national anthem? That has already been attempted – in 2009 a school in New Brunswick tried to ban O’Canada due to the complaints of two (yes two) parents who were clearly not nationalists. See the @CTV article about this: here.

Being proud of our country and its traditions does not mean that we are marginalizing minorities. It means that we are teaching them about what the majority of Canadians believe in, and practice. In saying that, we are also open to new traditions and learning about other cultures populating our borders, but not by forsaking our own.

What are your thoughts about this? Do you think that Canadian holidays should be censored in our public schools? Or, do you think teaching about all our traditions (old and new) is the answer? Comment below.



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