Home > Essays > Here’s a Thought: Keep Holiday Names, Teach the Truth Behind Them

Here’s a Thought: Keep Holiday Names, Teach the Truth Behind Them

June 18, 2021

Tracy Tully’s NYTimes article, “A School District Got Rid of Columbus Day. It Didn’t Stop There” described the contortions a district in North Jersey went through to respond to the pushback they received for the renaming of Columbus Day to “Indigenous Peoples Day”. When local voters put up a hue and cry, the School Board eliminated the names of ALL Holidays. Their latest gambit is to RESTORE the names of all of the Holidays. Why? Here’s what transpired after the district voted on May 13 to accept the recommendation of a local diversity and inclusion committee to rename the holiday:

One online petition last month drew more than 1,100 signatures and comments criticizing “woke” cancel culture. A second petition calling for the immediate resignation of the superintendent and board members generated more than 4,000 signatures and a flurry of media attention.

The board said its decision had been “misconstrued” and that the meaning behind the unnamed holidays would still be taught.

“Schools will still be closed on the days that we originally approved and our children will know why,” the board explained on Sunday in a statement.

(State) Senator Bucco was among those who spoke out against renaming Columbus Day at last Thursday’s raucous board meeting. He said he was heartened that the school calendar may restore the names of all state and federal holidays.

“If they want to add Indigenous Peoples’ Day to the calendar, then by all means do it,” he said. “But don’t violate Italian Americans’ civil rights by removing only them.”

Columbus Day has been celebrated as a federal holiday on the second Monday of October since 1971, according to the Library of Congress, but has been observed for centuries. The first recorded celebration was in New York City in 1792. In 1892, then-President Benjamin Harrison issued a proclamation that recommended local celebrations, in part in response to anti-Catholic and anti-Italian sentiments and the murder of 11 Sicilian men in New Orleans.

Here’s an idea: maybe the “woke cancel culture” will advocate the continuation of the named Holidays with the REAL history behind each of them and the fact that the “heroic deeds” of the late 1400s have some elements that look barbaric 600+ years later, the heroes themselves are imperfect, and that political tensions and identify politics have existed for decades.  Make sure that the children understand the bravery it took for Columbus to sail uncharted oceans is admirable, but the greed that drove him might not be. Make sure that the children understand that Columbus and his fellow explorers saw the Native Americans as “savages”, a perspective that was wrong-headed and inaccurate. Make sure the children understand that Columbus, his fellow explorers, the settlers and other Americans brutalized and exploited the Native Americans in the name of “civilizing” them, a perspective that we now know is wrong-headed and inaccurate. And that history of celebrating Columbus Day? Make sure that is included to emphasize that our country has struggled for inclusivity and diversity for decades?

What’s that you say? This kind of instruction might be construed as “Critical Race Theory”…the body of knowledge that the anti-cancel culture crowd wants to (ahem) cancel? Maybe when we look at history through a wide range of perspectives instead of through the lens of the “conquerers” we will achieve the diversity and inclusiveness everyone seems to aspire to.

Categories: Essays Tags:
%d bloggers like this: