On Thanksgiving, I read several stories about how history is being re-written in the schools. In view of events in Maryland I think we need a refresher course in the First Amendment.
This is what the First Amendment actually says: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Now I'm not saying that the First Amendment is being used incorrectly. By citing the First Amendment, I'm attempting to head off those who will say that government schools cannot allow religion into schools. The First Amendment does not say that. It simply states that Congress cannot make laws to either establish a national religion or laws that give preference to any religion over another. Nor can Congress make laws that prohibit the practice of religion.
Now, I'm a Christian and I make no bones about it. I believe that the various religions should be taught in schools just as English, Math, and Science are taught. I think creationism and evolution should be taught side-by-side with no preference one to the other. And I specifically think that the religious aspects of our national holidays should be taught, especially the historical context of those holidays. Teaching about religion is not the same as teaching religion.
Maryland teachers, according to the article referenced above, are teaching that the pilgrims came over on the Mayflower, and how the Indians (I refuse to use the term Native American when referring to this group) helped them; the kids can thank anyone they want, they just can't thank God. Charles Ridgell, Curriculum and instruction director for St Mary's Country Public Schools says, "We teach about Thanksgiving from a purely historical perspective, not from a religious perspective," I beg to differ, Mr. Ridgell, you are not teaching the historical perspective at all.
To take religion out of Thanksgiving is to remove the entire reason for the pilgrims coming to America in the first place. Call Thanksgiving a Harvest Fest if you want. That's more historically accurate according to several historians I heard over the weekend. The pilgrims actually had many days of thanksgiving throughout the year. These days of thanksgiving were religious in nature and spent in church giving thanks to God. The Harvest Fest was not. It was a time to celebrate the abundance of the harvest. It was a three day fest and in that first year the pilgrims invited the Indians (another inaccurate term) to celebrate the harvest with them.
During the centuries since the first Thanksgiving (or Harvest Fest, if you prefer),we've made the days of thanksgiving and the Harvest Fest into one holiday. This is historically inaccurate, but I don't see a problem, nor do I see it being changed. So, we're left with one holiday made from two ideas. Not a bad idea - celebrating what is good in our lives with a feast shared many times with others.
On Thanksgiving we give thanks. Many give thanks for the usual things, friends, family, health, and abundance. Some simply celebrate having the day off. No one is wrong in what they give thanks for or even if they don't. It's a personal choice. Most people give thanks to a higher being whether it is the universal God or a god or goddess or simply an unknown higher being that they respect. Some don't believe in a higher being at all. I don't care if someone worships differently than I do or even that they don't. It's a personal choice. I don't see worshipping differently than I do, or not worhshipping at all, as wrong. I feel sorry for those who don't believe in a higher power of some sort, but that's their choice and the topic of another post another time.
What is wrong is someone deciding that someone else might be offended if children are taught that God had any connenction to Thanksgiving. I see two reasons this is wrong. First, it's changing history to be politically correct. We've done enough of that over the years. How about actually teaching history as it happened? Teaching that the reason the pilgrims came to America was because they were persecuted as Christians! The truth! What a concept!
And secondly, it's assuming that anyone would be offended in the first place. We have three major holidays in America where God plays a role. Thanksgiving where we give thanks for the abundance of the year; Christmas where the birth of Christ is celebrated; and finally Easter, where the death and resurrection of Christ is celebrated. All three have been PC'd to the point that the religious aspect is only a small part celebrated by religious fanantics. Someone might be offended if God is mentioned?
Immigrants come to this country and bring their customs, beliefs and holidays with them. And it's good that they do. It makes America all the richer for it. But, it's not always the immigrant who complains about our holidays. It's often the American citizen who complains. And isn't it grand that they can do so?
When it comes to our national holidays, celebrate according to your beliefs and let me celebrate according to mine. Don't sanitize or revise the history of the holiday. Let the teachers teach history.
The truth is out there. And it is good.