Theodore's World: Claremont,CA. Parents Clash Over Kindergarten Thanksgiving Costumes

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November 25, 2008

Claremont,CA. Parents Clash Over Kindergarten Thanksgiving Costumes

This photo is from LAST year’s Thanksgiving celebration, a four-decade-old Claremont school district tradition.

Claremont parents clash over kindergarten Thanksgiving costumes

Some say having students dress up as pilgrims and Native Americans is 'demeaning.' Their opponents say they are elitists injecting politics into a simple children's celebration.

Los Angeles Times

For decades, Claremont kindergartners have celebrated Thanksgiving by dressing up as pilgrims and Native Americans and sharing a feast. But on Tuesday, when the youngsters meet for their turkey and songs, they won't be wearing their hand-made bonnets, headdresses and fringed vests.

Parents in this quiet university town are sharply divided over what these construction-paper symbols represent: A simple child's depiction of the traditional (if not wholly accurate) tale of two factions setting aside their differences to give thanks over a shared meal? Or a cartoonish stereotype that would never be allowed of other racial, ethnic or religious groups?

"It's demeaning," Michelle Raheja, the mother of a kindergartner at Condit Elementary School, wrote to her daughter's teacher. "I'm sure you can appreciate the inappropriateness of asking children to dress up like slaves (and kind slave masters), or Jews (and friendly Nazis), or members of any other racial minority group who has struggled in our nation's history."

Raheja, whose mother is a Seneca, wrote the letter upon hearing of a four-decade district tradition, where kindergartners at Condit and Mountain View elementary schools take annual turns dressing up and visiting the other school for a Thanksgiving feast. This year, the Mountain View children would have dressed as Native Americans and walked to Condit, whose students would have dressed as Pilgrims.

Raheja, an English professor at UC Riverside who specializes in Native American literature, said she met with teachers and administrators in hopes that the district could hold a public forum to discuss alternatives that celebrate thankfulness without "dehumanizing" her daughter's ancestry.

"There is nothing to be served by dressing up as a racist stereotype," she said.

Last week, rumors began to circulate on both campuses that the district was planning to cancel the event, and infuriated parents argued over the matter at a heated school board meeting Thursday. District Supt. David Cash announced at the end of the meeting that the two schools had tentatively decided to hold the event without the costumes, and sent a memo to parents Friday confirming the decision.

Cash and the principals of Condit and Mountain View did not respond to interview requests.

But many parents, who are convinced the decision was made before the board meeting, accused administrators of bowing to political correctness.

Kathleen Lucas, a Condit parent who is of Choctaw heritage, said her son -- now a first-grader -- still wears the vest and feathered headband he made last year to celebrate the holiday.

"My son was so proud," she said. "In his eyes, he thinks that's what it looks like to be Indian."

Among the costume supporters, there is a vein of suspicion that casts Raheja and others opposed to the costumes as agenda-driven elitists. Of the handful of others who spoke with Raheja against the costumes at the board meeting, one teaches at the University of Redlands, one is an instructor at Riverside Community College, and one is a former Pitzer College professor.

Raheja is "using those children as a political platform for herself and her ideas," Constance Garabedian said as her 5-year-old Mountain View kindergartner happily practiced a song about Native Americans in the background. "I'm not a professor and I'm not a historian, but I can put the dots together."

The debate is far from over. Some parents plan to send their children to school in costume Tuesday -- doubting that administrators will force them to take them off. The following day, some plan to keep their children home, costing the district attendance funds to punish them for modifying the event.

"She's not going to tell us what we can and cannot wear," said Dena Murphy, whose 5-year-old son attends Mountain View. "We're tired of [district officials] cowing down to people. It's not right."

But others hoped that tempers would calm over the long holiday weekend, and the community could come together to have a fruitful discussion about Thanksgiving and its meaning.

"Its always a good thing to think about, critically, how we teach kids, even from very young ages, the message we want them to learn, and the respect for the diversity of the American experiences," said Jennifer Tilton, an assistant professor of race and ethnic studies at the University of Redlands and a Claremont parent who opposes the costumes.

Wild Thing's comment.......

We are a Nation that is imploding and with all this PC bull, it is destroying our history, our heroes and who they have been and our future!!!

Now LOOK at this, the GOOD Parents are fighting back and remember too this is in Californina. Yes there are a lot of conservatives there just outnumered is the problem. But this is a GREAT example of how fighting back makes a difference and how we should never have apathy.


source is The Claremont Insider

Dena Murphy, a Mountain View parent, just gave an update on "The John and Ken Show" (KFI radio, 64.0). The parents at both Mountain View and Condit were hopping mad at the school board wimps. (The School District said the feast could go on, but not with the costumes).
Happily, the 98% of parents - at both schools - who support the kids in costume are staging a protest tomorrow. Yep, they're sending their kids to school in their costumes no matter how much the school board objects. Wait, it gets better...and then they're KEEPING THEM HOME FROM SCHOOL on Wednesday, so those schools won't get a dime of "attendance money" from the state for that day.

Posted by Wild Thing at November 25, 2008 02:48 AM


Why would you be against Thanksgiving? This is just getting ridiculous!! My 6 year olds class is having a feast this morning. She's taking apples and popcorn. The media always does some kind of reporting on it, sometimes on tv, sometimes in the paper. She's really looking forward to it! And if anyone suffered during that time, it was the Pilgrims because they didn't know how to use the land and it took the Indians to help them out. This was never about enslavement, as with slavery or the concentration camps. This lady is really stupid. There were more than just Jews in those camps. He put Catholics, gays, anyone who wasn't white anglo saxon protestant in those death camps.
Thanksgiving is for being with and thanking those who gave us the freedoms we so enjoy so this kids mom can act like a goon in public. Does she celebrate Thanksgiving herself?
I am glad to hear the parents are putting their foot down and starting to say, "No more PC BS!"

Posted by: Lynn at November 25, 2008 04:39 AM

I agree with you Lynn about the PC BS!!!! Enough is enough!!!

And let's leave the whole racist "I'm a poor black oppressed person teaching in college" out of the equation!!!! I am so sick and tired of hearing about how oppressed everyone is!!!! If that's how you feel, go back to Africa!!!!!!! I'm sure life is soooooooo much better there!!!!!!

The biggest reason there is still so much racism in America today is because dingbat idiots like this piece of crap keeps stirring the pot!!!!

I am so glad that there are finally some people willing to take a stand against this kind of lunacy!!!! I hope they make the school administrators hurt bad in the pocketbook!!!!

Posted by: John at November 25, 2008 11:14 AM

Glad to see the parents fighting back against the wimpy school officials. Also glad to see the newspaper article points out that some of the complainers are college teachers. "Agenda driven elitists" pretty well defines the Leftist movement in America. It sure defines Obama and his associates.

Posted by: TomR at November 25, 2008 12:27 PM

We have officially gone too far. This story also made ! Check it out for all the crazy headlines from our schools.

Posted by: hall monitor at November 25, 2008 05:23 PM

We have defeated the communists abroad, only to have a fifth column of them, like "Professor" Raheja, at home.

Posted by: Nick Byram at November 25, 2008 05:34 PM

I commend the parents that will send their children in costume to school as well as keep them home the next day in protest. However, we should all know that even though they may win this battle the war is already lost. The PC BS crowd has been, and will continue, brainwashing the minds of these helpless and impressionable young children in the left-wing and liberal anti-American diversity agenda of the Kool-Aid drinking lemming crowd of the Church of Obama.

Posted by: Les at November 25, 2008 05:59 PM

Lynn, I agree, it feels good to see parents fighting back.

Posted by: Wild Thing at November 25, 2008 07:30 PM

John, DITTO!

And this too!

"I am so glad that there are finally some people willing to take a stand against this kind of lunacy!"

Posted by: Wild Thing at November 25, 2008 07:32 PM

Tom, yes that is good and your right how it defines Obama too.

Posted by: Wild Thing at November 25, 2008 07:35 PM

hall monitor, thank you for the link and the information.

Posted by: Wild Thing at November 25, 2008 07:37 PM

Nick Byram, your right, and I can't believe this is happening to our wonderful country.

Posted by: Wild Thing at November 25, 2008 07:39 PM

Les,yes I wish we could stop it.

Posted by: Wild Thing at November 25, 2008 07:41 PM

Maybe it's time to do what our grandparents and great grandparents would have done. They would have gone over to this woman's (Raheja)house and ran her out of town on a rail.

I'm getting really tired of these people trampling the traditions of my nation to suit their own little world.

Posted by: BobF at November 25, 2008 09:09 PM