Farewell, Childhood Fun

It saddens me to see the dissolution of American tradition in our schools today.  Another elementary has done away with the many-decades-old Halloween parade and party.  The powers that be claim this is in the name of inclusion, to accommodate the diverse population, and to focus on education.

First of all, I believe inclusion means to INCLUDE, share, and participate in events together in order to grow and become well-rounded.  Today, though, we keep separating groups and segregating society, and that certainly is not embracing diversity.

Some will point out that the event will still happen, that they are offering a one-hour block of time in the evening to trick or treat through the hallways of the school.  That is not demonstrating inclusion as doing this eliminates the opportunity for a good number of kids for many reasons, from working parents not getting home in time to after school athletics, lessons, and events.  By keeping it in school during the day, everyone has an equal opportunity to attend and participate with their friends.  That is how it should be.

And second, here we go; the real issue I have with this.  Education.  Get over yourself if you feel that a half day of school truly “educates” so well and is so needed that you feel compelled to abandon a holiday party that occurs once a year.  I’m all about educating these kids, but I also recognize that education does not strictly come from a book, lecture, and some worksheets.  This is what I know for certain:

I don’t remember the day I learned how to multiply by 8. I don’t recall the day I learned how to spell “coyote” or the day I figured out the formula for table salt.  I don’t remember what chapters I read in third grade or what we did for science in fifth grade.  This is what I do remember.  I remember each Halloween, my costume, and some of the games we played.  I remember other specific moments very vividly.  I remember working in the elementary kitchen at lunch time, helping cook, clean, and deliver the meals, back before it was too dangerous and doing so took away from “learning” – never mind that I was gaining life skills in that kitchen from Mrs. Munn.  I remember the contest in sixth grade for class shirt design and naming the class mascot.  I remember the morning I found a baby bird, newly hatched, on the side of the road on the way to school with friends. We wrapped it up and carried it to the principal in the hopes that he could save it.  I remember field day each year, and how we would strive to beat the school records and eat popsicles afterward.  That was back when ribbons were handed out for first, second, and third place, not just to everyone for showing up.  We actually had goals and competed.  I remember tetherball competitions on the playground and the time the bees built a nest in the pole.  That was not a fun day.  I remember my friends and our playground activities. I remember Girl Scouts through the school, and our trip to Greenfield Village.  Even today, when I visit, I sit for a moment and stare at the bridge and remember the photo taken there with a group of my friends.  One died a few years later, and I can’t look at that bridge and not think of her. I even remember some of the skits we saw, over 30 years ago, because they were powerful. I recall other field trips and specific details from each.  We went to a nature center in sixth grade with the other sixth grade classes in the district. I remember the nature paths and the edible plants we found on our three day excursion.   I remember the year my neighbor struggled with playing “Good King Wenceslas” on her violin at the school Christmas program (yes, back when we actually had that).  She was frustrated and started over several times, but both parents and students alike smiled warmly and clapped at the end as if it had been the best performance ever. In that moment, I learned tenacity, grit, and compassion.  You can’t teach that from a book. I remember trying out for athletic teams and learning what it took to be a team player as well as a leader. I remember school plays, from trying out to memorizing lines to performing.  It took hard work and guts to get out on that stage.  Again, more life lessons.  There are a great number of lessons I have listed in my short list of my experiences, and not one involved a lesson plan, a book, or a day of curriculum.

We have moved so far away from the school days I recall.  I realize my kids won’t have all of the same experiences, but I sure do regret they won’t even have a shot at some of the best memories. I regret that it is in the name of education. That is a cop-out.  So much learning happens outside of the classroom, and we no longer value the importance of these experiences. That is evident as day after day, we eliminate the events and opportunities.

Perhaps this will change. People are finally standing up to these decisions and protesting rather than simply accepting it. People are making it clear that this is not what we, as parents, desire.  I only hope our voices are loud enough.

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