Paterson, N.J. schools give in to Columbus Day | Style | -- Your State. Your News.

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Paterson, N.J. schools give in to Columbus Day

columbus100711_optBY PAM LOBLEY

The Paterson school district, New Jersey’s third largest public school district, had planned to be open on Columbus Day. Usually they are closed that day, in observance of the holiday. But this year, they have already missed many school days because of flooding, and they need to make up those days. New Jersey requires a total of 180 days of school.

When the Italians got word of this, they didn’t like it. The Italian American One Voice Coalition particularly didn’t like it because the school was choosing to stay closed on the Muslim holiday of Eidh-Al-Ahda, celebrated on November 7, but to open on Columbus Day, a traditional American holiday. They saw that as disrespectful to a state with such a large number of Italian American residents. The Paterson school district, by the way, is 60 percent Hispanic, 30 percent African American and 9 percent other.

I like Columbus as much as the next gal. His story is impressive, his achievements loom large, and let’s face it, he changed the world. But if you want to honor him, the kids should be in school.

As a mother of two school age children and a some-time substitute teacher I can tell you that all kids get Columbus coming and going. It starts with picture books in Kindergarten and continues right on up through fifth grade when they learn that yes, though he was Italian, it was the Spanish King and Queen that paid for his trip. There is no shortage of Columbus-worship in the public schools.

I am pretty sure that most kids with the day off will not be spending it by honoring Columbus. They’re going to stay in their pajamas watching Nickelodeon, and then go outside and play. They might go to a movie or hit the mall.

Our school district, in Bergen County, is never closed on Columbus Day. We have a half day. I don’t get this, either. I can guarantee you my family is not going to use the extra 2 hours to attend a parade or attempt a Santa Maria reenactment. We’re going to go to Burger King for lunch and then get a jump on homework.

I don’t want to burst any bubbles, but to kids, a day off from school is a day off from school. They watch TV and play with their friends. Maybe Mom uses that day to buy them new sneakers. If Dad and Mom are off from work, then the whole family might get to do something fun, like a day trip or even a long weekend.

I don’t know any families that use their days off to honor Columbus, or Martin Luther King, Jr., (also heavily taught and appreciated during school-day curriculums), or the Presidents (ditto). Even Memorial Day and Labor Day, two of the most sacred, non-religious holidays in America, are days to go to the beach.

Comments (4)
4 Thursday, 10 October 2013 14:14
To me I will not recongnze Columbus Day or Martin Luther King Day unitl the American Government formally makes St Patrick's Day a holiday. To me the Italians have their day, the blacks have their day but the Irish don't. Not acceptable to me. I have never went to school or work on St Patrick's Day. I own my own company and I give St Patricks Day a paid holiday but not Columbus or Martin Luther King Day and will not unitl the American Government gives St Patricks day a paid holiday.
3 Wednesday, 12 October 2011 21:23
Soemtimes the kids DON'T need to be in school. We overload them with so much, why complain that they get a day off to go out and be kids? Ridiculous.
2 Monday, 10 October 2011 09:51
Religious holidays should have nothing to do with the school calendar IMHO. Sure, we have Spring Break where Easter and Passover coincide sometimes and the Winter Break where Christmas and New Years Day occur, but for the same reasons the kids have off from school in the summers (orginally to work on the farm during the growing season), these traditional holiday seasons were observed by prior generations of Americans and now our work calendars and lives are intertwined with these holidays. It would be extremely difficult to change this mindset. As such, these breaks should stay.

What school districts should do is allot a number of school days off for "holidays" for each child so that if there is a day that a child has to observe for religious reasons, be it Good Friday or Eid Al-Adha, then the day is taken from the bank of days given to the child. You don't have to use these days, but if you do, the child has to make up the work in school that he/she missed. In this way, parents who do not celebrate a holiday like Rosh Hashanah or Eid Al-Adha don't have to use one of their precious vacation days to stay home with the kiddies or, if they don't have the vacation days, lose a day of pay, which these days can be devasting for a single income family.

If you want your child to have off for a religious holiday, then send your child to an appropraite religious school for Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, etc. Public schools are public - for all children, creeds, nationalities, etc., and religion should have nothing to do with whether a day is given. Public national holidays like Thanksgiving and Presidents Day are the exceptions.
1 Sunday, 09 October 2011 17:28
Aref Assaf
I am glad Paterson's schools will be closed during Eid Al-Adha on November 7. This is a religious holiday where Muslims are expected to attend services in their mosques followed by visits to cemeteries and family members. Columbus Day on the other hand is a civic holiday and students are best served by teaching them about what Columbus did rather than spending the day at Macy's. And besides, Paterson has a sizable number of Muslim students and teachers.

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