Claremont parents clash over kindergarten Thanksgiving costumes

Posted by Kendall Harmon

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?

Read it all.


Filed under: * Culture-WatchChildrenEducationMarriage & Family

17 Comments
Posted November 25, 2008 at 4:30 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. The_Archer_of_the_Forest wrote:

Good grief, Charlie Brown!

November 25, 5:41 pm | [comment link]
2. Jim the Puritan wrote:

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?

I wish to register my strong objection to Pilgrims and other Puritans always being depicted as wearing drab black, grey and white clothing.  Anyone who knows the real history of the Puritans would realize this is a cartoonish attempt, first made by post-Victorian haters, to demean and marginalize those of my religious persuasion.  This must be stopped immediately, even if it means abolishing Thanksgiving entirely!

November 25, 6:03 pm | [comment link]
3. Nikolaus wrote:

Speaking as the spouse of an elementary school teacher, parents have very little business sticking their noses in their childs school.  What may have started as a positive has become destructive.  Educators are trained professionals, supervised by professionals and using professionally developed materials.  The vast majority of parents have no clue what it takes to motivate and educate children.

November 25, 6:07 pm | [comment link]
4. Hakkatan wrote:

Some Native American activists get all exercised by “stereotyping,” and I suppose that there are some dangers in simplistic portrayals of Native Americans and other ethnic groups.  But these are K & 1 kids; they are not capable of nuanced understanding of anything.  (My wife teaches Grade 2 and has taught K.)

There are other Native Americans who are not bothered in the least -and are to some degree proud - that there are sports teams named the “Braves” and “Warriors.”  It is a compliment, even if it falls short of a full understanding of Native American culture.  (On the other hand, I have been to some events in which those of Eastern Woodland heritage used customs and costumes of Plains background - there seems to be a lot of “mix and match” when Native Americans get together as Native Americans.)

November 25, 6:10 pm | [comment link]
5. Byzantine wrote:

Educators are trained professionals, supervised by professionals and using professionally developed materials.  The vast majority of parents have no clue what it takes to motivate and educate children.

Nonsense.  Educators are a self-selected, self-justifying group whose government-enforced cartel is slowly being broken up.  When that process is finally completed, the truth will be out:  it doesn’t take near the resources or time the education establishment says it does to impart knowledge and critical thought to students.

November 25, 6:19 pm | [comment link]
6. Capt.Scott wrote:

It’s a shame that the parents have not grown up!  These are kids having fun dressing in costumes and glorifying peace between different cultures.

Gimme a break!

Capt.Scott

November 25, 6:51 pm | [comment link]
7. mugsie wrote:

Speaking as the spouse of an elementary school teacher, parents have very little business sticking their noses in their childs school.  What may have started as a positive has become destructive.  Educators are trained professionals, supervised by professionals and using professionally developed materials.  The vast majority of parents have no clue what it takes to motivate and educate children.

#3, Nikolaus, you are quite right when you state that the actions of parents here are “destructive”. However, I totally disagree with the rest of your statement. Parents have EVERY right to “stick their noses” in their childrens’ schools. Why ever do you think this is not so? We pay the “educators” through our taxes to educate our children. It’s a well known fact that our tax dollars are being effectively wasted by the so-called “educators” you speak so highly of. As to these educators being “trained professionals”, well I guess that one is debatable too. I’ve seen way too much LACK of professionalism to be taken in by that statement.

Yes, it’s “destructive” what’s being done here. However, it’s not because parents shouldn’t be involved in their childrens’ schools. It’s more a problem with society having become so over-reactive to any and every little thing. There is a factual history regarding Thanksgiving. Just read that for yourself. It does involve native Americans and Pilgrims sharing the feast together and being thankful for what God gave them in order to survive. If not for the teaching of the Natives to the Pilgrims, the Pilgrims may not have survived their first winter in the New England area where the winters can be quite harsh. Please read your history. It’s quite enlightening.

November 25, 8:01 pm | [comment link]
8. Sick & Tired of Nuance wrote:

We home school our children.  We read “Mourt’s Relation: A Journal of the Pilgrims in Plymouth” together and I tell them about our own family coming to North America in 1635.  They hear about the Mayflower Compact and the prayers and hopes of those early pilgrims.  We also draw a sharp contrast beteen the Pilgrims of Plymouth and the later Puritan settlers.

November 25, 8:32 pm | [comment link]
9. Gretta wrote:

Sigh.

November 25, 11:06 pm | [comment link]
10. Larry Morse wrote:

The best text, Gov. Bradford’s journal - next is Mourt’s Relation - tells us that the first thanksgiving was really a set of celebrations, and that in fact, Pilgrims and Amerinds did eat together amicably, the Amerinds bringing in food. The relations between the Plymouth Colony and the local tribes was in fact a generally friendly one. The serious trouble started much later. The elementary school dress-up is both harmless and reasonably correct. It is true that the Puritans were not what Nathanial Hawthorne made them out to be, a biased picture magnified all out of proportion by the 19th century. Examining the probated wills of the Colony tells us exactly what they had, what they wore and what they valued. Have you seen Gov. Bradford’s fancy beaded gloves? If you look at the bills of lading from ships that came to the colony from England, you will find that the common hat was the Monmouth cap, not the square topped, wide brimmed beaver that most people connect with the Puritans. And t he clothes they wore were commonly not black; the color was too hard to make color fast. The wore earth-toned colors, grays and brown and greens and yellows because these colors were easy to come by from local trees and plants - hickory bark and leaves e.g.
  This news above is simply Cal. being its usual flaky left wing self. The administration has behaved in a morally cowardly fashion, but this is no news at all.
  #3: You may be right from where you are. My experience as a teacher is that elementary school teachers are the product of education major programs, taken because the individual was unable to survive academically in a standard major. Elementary teachers need to be very bright and widely educated because the success of many students depends entirely on how well the elementary teachers perform. IN fact, their performance is very weak indeed. See the test results of those states where elementary teachers have had to pass competency tests. I grant you that parents can be a pain in the ...; but their presence is unavoidable and the school absolutely requires an administration that keeps them from becoming chronic pests. (The trouble is, EVERYBODY thinks he can teach because they are all so sure they know everythiing necessary. But plenty of teachers say to themselves on parent-teacher night, if you know so much, why is your kid such a know-nothing and all round jerk? If you want to know what’s wrong with the kid, just meet the parents.)  Larry

November 25, 11:26 pm | [comment link]
11. TACit wrote:

I agree it’s rather a shame for such small children to have a harmless and reasonably accurate portrayal of the National Holiday’s beginnings overhauled by disgruntled parents.  In fact I thought the best comment in the article came from the parent who suggested the mother/UC Riverside English professor is taking advantage of the situation and the children, to drive her own political agenda.  That is what is happening here.

I have my own political agenda I could push, one in which those of us Americans whose forebears were for example murdered cruelly by Delaware, Shawnee, or whatever other tribes in the mid-1700s, help the rest of the nation remember those events.  But I put it aside in the interest of living together into God’s future - expecting exactly the same of others who have suffered in other ways.

November 26, 1:04 am | [comment link]
12. Larry Morse wrote:

Tacit: How can you utter such a politically incorrect idea as rememberiing the settlers who were murdered by Amerinds. NNEVER happened - except to one of my ancestors, a Currier of Amesbury, Mass. who happened to be killed and scalped by Amerinds. And a few others, by the bye. And yet, you are correct in your conclusion. Thanksgiving is being truly thankful and to pray that, in fact, Amerinds can eat as well as we do. If you grow a lot of your own food, as I do, it makes the thanksgiving meal have a sharper sauce, especially if you take fresh venison down to the homeless shelter’s kitchen.  Larry

November 26, 9:55 am | [comment link]
13. Already left wrote:

It was just one mother who complained and the entire school board caved. BUT, the parents regrouped and the children had the feast yesterday in their pilgrim/Indian garb. Also, a great many of the parents are keeping their children out of school today as a way of telling the school board who’s in charge. No attendance, no payment from the state!

November 26, 12:07 pm | [comment link]
14. RevK wrote:

I saw the CNN report on this. Two of the protesters held a banner suggesting that Thanksgiving was a celebration of genocide.  As Bugs Bunny would say, “What a maroon!”  Divorced from any religious connotation, Thanksgiving represents the very opposite; a time when whites and natives got along.

November 26, 9:52 pm | [comment link]
15. Bill Matz wrote:

The real tragedy here is that you have a university professor demanding that students not be taught history because this portion offends her. Imagine what would happen if we could not teach children any portion of history that would offend someone. There would be nothing left to teach. Yet increasingly it appears (at least in CA) that public school children are being fed an historical pablum that does little to help develop insight into today’s world.

November 27, 2:14 pm | [comment link]
16. Jim the Puritan wrote:

#15:  That’s the culture at many “institutions of higher learning” today.  I remember falling off my chair many years ago as I heard a professor of “Native Studies” at our local university say her job was to “teach history as it should have happened.”  The first time I heard her, I seriously wondered whether she had ever taken a real course in the subject matter she was making up, err, teaching.

November 27, 3:48 pm | [comment link]
17. libraryjim wrote:

Interesting web site with a lesson on the True Story of Thanksgiving by Rush Limbaugh, with the moral: Socialism fails, free market/capitalism succeeds.  wink

November 27, 6:09 pm | [comment link]
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