In the latest school news, my last school district has taken on Christmas. And it's so last month! How did I miss that? Oh yeah, I've been dealing with my own hectic life.
A couple of days ago, I wrote to a past colleague with a question about a Roman arch project. He responded with some shocking news. My hometown has once again landed in the national spotlight. This time it has nothing to do with pubic workers taking a stand against a union busting governor. No, this time it was one of their own who caused the uproar.
Here's what I learned yesterday in an email from my friend:
"Though, if you've caught the news lately you know the WSD has made national news. You'll remember the annual email about respecting cultural diversity and finding some curricular relevance for holiday festivities and songs. But a music teacher at West felt like there wasn't enough Christ in the public school district's Christmas concerts, and he called Fox News. Wausau's "War on Christmas" went national. There was a crazy public hearing at a school board meeting; the superintendent received death threats; Sarah Palin came to town to save Christmas from us godless, liberal public school teachers. Crazy, crazy stuff. That is: I still envy you your exodus to saner climes."
What began as a request from a high school music teacher to include only religious based Christmas songs in this year's winter concert led to the announcement that he could perform a concert with no religious based songs. That resulted in conflict between the school board and the administration.
OMG! What have I missed?! Yes, I'm glad I moved away. I'm very glad I moved away. *Breathing a sigh of relief.*
So what was the problem? The district places an emphasis on cultural diversity. The public schools are entrusted with educating all of the students, no matter what their religious upbringing may be. The district has never banned inclusion of religious topics as long as they are educational in nature and respect the students and their families. I never saw a problem with that, and I still don't.
High school choir director, Phil Buch, apparently does have a problem with that. He started the fire by bringing his grievances to Fox News, and school board member, Pat McKee, fueled the flames when he told Fox News that it was "nothing short of a war on Christmas."
What was the decision that caused such an uproar? Ultimately, Buch was told he'd either have to include some secular winter songs in the program, or he'd have to change the theme of the winter program entirely. His response was to disband the choir. Excuse me, but how childish! Being a teacher myself, I can think of so many marvelous things he could have done with that. He could have put together a multicultural program including holiday songs in a variety of different languages. He could have taken a look at holiday music through the ages. In both cases, it would not be difficult to incorporate secular holiday songs. Instead, he canceled Christmas. Yes, Mr. Buch, it was not the Wausau School District that canceled this festive season. You are the one who started this "war".
UPDATE: Wausau School District limits religious music
Wisconsin school district cracks down on Christmas music
Wausau school district threatened with lawsuit over music policy