Once upon a time in Boston a colony of Russian-speaking Muslims assimilated a Colombian student. Some of the young men planned to bomb a 4th of July event, but built their bomb quicker than expected. You know the rest.
And why would that Colombian fellow choose to be an American anyway? Well, yes, technically, he, like the younger Tsarnaev brother, had American citizenship, but quite obviously his heart was elsewhere.
The other day Drudge had a headline about “Redneck Day” in some educational establishment in Arizona:
When members of the student council at an Arizona high school organized a schoolwide “Redneck Day” and encouraged classmates to dress — and spoof — accordingly, they hoped to build school spirit leading up to prom week.
Instead, “Redneck Day” at Queen Creek High School has angered African-Americans and civil-rights leaders and touched off a debate about free speech, social stereotypes and good taste.
Drudge’s headline was about somebody being angry, and, I assumed it was the people who object to terms “redneck” and “white trash”. The reason public schools no longer celebrate any meaningful holidays is because they bound to make somebody offended — or at least “not included”. My daughter’s elementary school, for instance, doesn’t celebrate Christmas or Halloween. Those are called — I kid you not — “winter festival” and “fall festival”, and the later has a whiff of Day of The Dead for a good measure.
Oddly enough, the school finds it possible to celebrate Chinese New Year. At the party one of the teachers felt obliged to read a segment that sounded suspiciously like a Wikipedia entry. She informed us that other countries have holidays at around that time too, like the Vietnamese Tet. (She didn’t mention Purim which we celebrated the following day — tisk-tisk-tisk.) Why should Chinese New Year get special treatment, I don’t know. There is a very large Asian community in our town, but doubt a single town resident of Asian extraction lobbied the school district to celebrate Chinese New Year. Plurality of Asian Americans are Christian, and there is no lack of churches around here that advertise services in Chinese or Korean. And in any event, I noticed that Buddhists find it very easy to have Christmas trees in their houses.
Kindergarten students get exposed to several other holidays. Since Fourth of July festivities take in summer, the school district is not obligated to deal with that. Presidents’ Day hardly gets a mention. Thanksgiving is the occasion to chastise the Pilgrims. Martin Luther King looms large. Per their recollection, Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s on-again, off-again mosque once praised the civil rights leader. But MLK was not interesting enough to this hothead, and who can blame him? While the preacher was an important historical figure, he’s hardly a foundational leader. Plus, his non-violence (and there is place non-violence in this world) has limited appeal to boys.
Once all references to Christianity and patriotism are removed, the school builds “school spirit” with an array of inconsequential elective carnivals. Children are encouraged to wear pink and red on Valentine’s day. Then there was the dreaded pajamas day and a multicultural picnic, for which we, the foreign born moms, are expected to bring exotic dishes. The only festivity we could get behind was the Read Across America Day that falls on Dr. Seuss’s Birthday. We love Seuss, and reading is a worthy cause. Apparently, the kindergarteners spontaneously engaged in some sort of Cat in A Hat game — how cool is that? And how lucky was Dr. Seuss to be a liberal. Had a conservative wrote the same poems (and a conservative could easily write most of them) he’d never get this kind of appreciation.
Our school is hardly most ridiculous. A friend’s daughter is attending a public elementary school in Orange County. There, the school district holds regular anti-drug theme days. Children are encouraged to dress up in costumes and teachers lead discussions about why drugs are bad. One of such theme was the 60’s. No, really.
One of my pet peeves is absence of school uniforms. In another recent news, Jared Marcum, a high school student in West Virginia was arrested and suspended for wearing an NRA t-shirt. I sympathize with Jared’s cause, and an NRA t-shirt is far more innocent than, say, a band t-shirt because all band t-shirts refer to controlled substances and promiscuity inherent in rock-n-roll. (Yes, my children will be allowed to wear band t-shirts). Some schools, particularly the ones with gang problems, prohibit all writing on articles of clothes. That’s a good start. Day-to-day experience of grade schools students should be less about self-expression and current happenings and more about academic excellence.
In American public schools juvenile self-absorption and ironic pop culture references loom large and cliques rule. It’s a hard landscape for a foreigner to navigate, even if he wants to assimilate and is eager to learn English. Many on the left ditch any discussion of assimilation; they take it as a given that American mass culture is omnipresent and will absorb everyone. While there obviously exists a global market for blue jeans and increasingly moronic Hollywood cinema, the culture of this country can not be reduced to these. And contemporary public school culture promotes cliquishness, including ethnic cliquishness.
Russian speakers like to describe American public schools as “zoos”, and we don’t have private schools in high regard either. There is little wonder that Tamerlan Tsarnaev bragged about not having American friends (even if he had no problems making a white American woman his first bride). Instead of figuring out how to bring more people into the country or how to pass naturalization certificates to those who came here illegally, we should figure out how to assimilate the new-comers already on track to citizenship.