As I was paging through our local daily yesterday morning, I came upon a story that surprised me.
It concerned an elementary school in a district not far from my home.
The topic was Halloween. The school principal and the co-chairs of its PTA had sent a notice to parents informing them that the school would not have a Halloween celebration this year. They said the decision was taken because 20 percent of the student body did not participate in last year's festivities.
"In the past," read the letter, "in-school celebrations of Halloween have made many of our students feel left out . . . (and as) a result, after careful consideration and deliberation, we have decided not to hold in-school Halloween activities."
The decision makers said, "One of the strengths of (the school) is that we are such a diverse community, with many cultures represented, and that we truly value everyone."
My first reaction to reading the articles was this: The newspaper was devoting way too much space to a single school's decision on a relatively minor matter.
My second reaction was this: Why would a school (at least one with students above the pre-K level) waste precious instruction time on Halloween parties and parades? Kids in costumes are likely to be distracted in school and further distracted by cupcake-and candy parties.
It's not as if Halloween is going away. Children celebrate by trick-or-treating after school on the day of the event. In addition, every city, town and hamlet around here has a local parade of children in their costumes on the weekend before Halloween.
(Back in the last millenium, in the days when I was being forcibly educated*, Halloween was not commemorated in schools. Even when the younger person attended elementary school, there were no commemorations. To be fair, both of us attended serious schools, but still. . . .)
Later in the day, I looked up the story again, this time on my computer, to be sure I had read the story right. And I had.
But I was surprised again: People were OUTRAGED about the cancellation of in-school Halloween celebrations. In a scant eight hours, more than 1,000 comments were appended to the article. Almost all of the commenters were very angry.
People had two main complaints:
-- They thought this was another example of political correctness and diversity run amok.
-- They suspected that immigrants were refusing to participate in an American cultural
"Yep, no need to assimilate, just cancel long standing traditions because somebody might be offended.
"Before I'm accused of being xenophobic, I am the grandchild of immigrants, and my mother-in-law is also an immigrant. None of those ancestors expected things to be changed for them, rather they adapted to their new country."
"That's right worry about everyone else but . . . I guess the 'Un-Diverse' Children who want to celebrate Halloween which has been celebrated in America for decades -- but cancel it and take away our rights to celebrate!! Stupid people running the schools!!"
"Germany is going nuts. Even ARAB countries don't want the Muslims. Why is that? Hmmmm?"
"So what's next on the chopping block? Thanksgiving? Christmas?"
This went on and on. You get the picture.
Since yesterday's story attracted so much attention, the newspaper ran a follow-up today. A PTA co-president explained the reasoning that led to the controversial decision.
"But diversity did not lead to the decision to have a Halloween parade in school. Unity led to this decision -- everyone counts, or nobody counts," she said.
(A little doublespeak there; I suspect the school's leaders wish they had named a different reason -- like the primacy of in-school instruction -- for canceling the Halloween hoopla.)
As happened yesterday, the comments section went wild. In two days, more than 1,800 reactions have been posted about a very minor issue.
I'm surprised. My family lives in a pretty blue part of a very blue state. The trend of these comments is not what I would have expected.
I think people are worried and not a little angry these days.
The employment situation may look good on paper, but it probably doesn't feel good to people who haven't had raises for years or who have lost their jobs or whose children are having difficulty finding work.
People are reading about hundreds of thousands of refugees headed for Europe, and are wondering what our country would do in a similar situation -- or perhaps believe that we are in a similar situation.
Traditional people, even in blue states, seem to believe that their way of life is threatened by bureaucrats with agendas.
A lot of insecurity out there.
* I believe it was H.L Mencken who wrote of "the years when I was being forcibly educated." Whoever said it, I like it.