Give kindergartners a break


For one golden, shining moment in 1621 -- before diseases brought by Colonists wiped out entire Native American nations, before Europeans subdued the continent with fire and gun and Bible, before the atrocities committed by both sides against each other -- English Pilgrims and Wampanoag Indians shared a meal peacefully, as equals, in celebration of the harvest. If two such disparate groups could accomplish that, maybe there’s hope for warring parents in the Claremont Unified School District.

Claremont: A Nov. 26 editorial said the Claremont school board canceled the Pilgrim and Native American costumes at an annual kindergarten Thanksgiving feast. The decision was made by the principals of Mountain View and Condit elementary schools, not the board. —

Conservative commentators are no doubt blowing kisses in the direction of UC Riverside professor Michelle Raheja, whose odd interpretation of oppression has given them endless fodder for discussion and mockery. Raheja, the mother of a kindergartner at Condit Elementary School in Claremont, was outraged at the school’s traditional Thanksgiving pageant, in which kids from Condit and kids from nearby Mountain View Elementary dress up as either Indians or Pilgrims and visit the other school for a feast. After Raheja wrote a letter to her daughter’s teacher likening the event to “asking children to dress up like slaves (and kind slave masters), or Jews (and friendly Nazis),” the school board held a hearing on the issue and decided to hold the event without the costumes. On Tuesday, the day of the feast, the exchanges at Condit between parents supporting and opposing the costumes grew so heated that the parents had to be separated by police.

As the culture wars rage on, this incident will be used by conservatives as an example of the absurd lengths to which liberals will go for the sake of political correctness, just as liberals burst a blood vessel whenever some school district in Kansas refuses to teach about evolution. Could everybody sit down for a minute, and pass the stuffing?


Raheja and other Claremont parents angry about the pageant can be forgiven for wanting their children to understand the real story of North America’s colonization and conquest, but kindergarten might be a trifle early for the full grisly truth. Unlike many of the apocryphal tales we tell our children about American history, such as George Washington and the cherry tree, the first Thanksgiving actually happened (or at least there’s documentary evidence that it did). It was a moment of multicultural understanding and sharing that’s worth celebrating, even if it was short-lived. And making Pilgrim hats and Indian headbands out of construction paper is a lot of fun.

As for the Claremont school board: No seconds on pumpkin pie for you. Caving to the demands of a small group of oversensitive parents is cowardly and ill serves the district’s children.