Who says romance is dead? A St. Paul school

  1. Listen MPR News Bob Collins and Tom Weber discuss if public schools should celebrate holidays?

    February 3, 2016

A St. Paul school is putting a stake in the very heart of Valentine’s Day.

Principal Scott Masini of Bruce Vento Elementary School sent a letter home to parents announcing that “dominant” holidays would no longer be celebrated at the school. These include Christmas, Thanksgiving, Halloween, and Valentine’s Day, the Star Tribune reports today.

Christmas? That makes sense. It’s a religious holiday and Masini’s student body is made of lots of non-Christians. Halloween? Some people find it satanic. Thanksgiving? Your guess is as good as mine, pilgrim.

But Valentine’s Day? Good. It’s a day of commercialism and a lot of people in love don’t like it anymore. People shouldn’t feel obligated to express their love; that’s not the way love works. But go ahead and try to get through Valentine’s Day without running up a big tab.

Save yourselves while you still can, kids.

Masini’s letter made its way to an ultra-secret Facebook page for people who love St. Paul schools and teachers, but many don’t love Masini’s decision, the Strib says.

By daybreak Thursday, there were dozens of comments left on the page, which was started by parents in the district two years ago in connection with teacher contract talks.

“Very sad. All the fun is gone,” read one posting. “Totally ridiculous” and “Tired of the PC,” read two others.

In support, one commenter said she believes Masini and his staff are “being sensitive to children at their school who do not practice these holidays due to religious beliefs. … Holidays are very personal. Every family has a different take on how they celebrate or do not celebrate them.”

Another commenter said she teaches at Bruce Vento. She wrote that the principal “is under an immense amount of pressure from many of his own staff who dispute his decision. … Masini is truly trying to be inclusive of his student population … ”

The school district in Malden, Mass., the second most diverse school system in that state, dumped Valentine’s Day three years ago, opting to observe “Friendship Day” instead. That’s something that won’t cost you a dime.

  • crystals

    Ultra secret facebook pages are THE WORST.

    • Ben Chorn

      Something the mayor of Superior, WI should’ve used

    • tboom

      “…an ultra-secret Facebook page”

      Oxymoron According to Merriam-Webster: – 2) something (as a concept) that is made up of contradictory or incongruous elements.

  • Rob

    It’s all a carefully engineered leftist plot to get rid of Christmas observances. By including these other holidays, the principal is making it appear that none are being singled out. That wascally wabbit!

    Although I do like the sound of Friendship Day…

  • Nick K

    The real issue here is with Thanksgiving? Ummm, dominant holiday? I don’t know what that is code for, but Thanksgiving is an American holiday(by Congressional proclamation) and there is something seriously wrong with a public school, in America, not celebrating / acknowledging it. Is the principal planning on holding class that day or at least showing up to work? I get that this is a school made up of mostly non-whites, but I don’t really see how removing Thanksgiving from the discussion is helpful.

    • Kassie

      Because 1) there are religions that don’t celebrate any holidays– Jehovah’s Witnesses being the the biggest group and 2) Many Native Americans don’t celebrate Thanksgiving but instead observe a National Day of Mourning. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Day_of_Mourning_(United_States_protest)

      • Nick K

        Thanksgiving is a secular holiday. Since the school is still observing MLK Day, Washington’s Birthday, Veteran’s Day, etc, the don’t celebrate any holiday argument falls flat. Additionally, as is discussed endlessly every Thanksgiving, the connection between what is now celebrated and the Pilgrim’s “Thanksgiving” is non-existent.

        • Kassie

          The article clearly states the school board advised that school “shall discourage lavish programs and festivities arranged to celebrate holidays and other special days, and shall strive to eliminate them, if possible except where such observances are required by law.” Those holidays: Washington’s Birthday, Lincoln’s Birthday, Martin Luther King’s Birthday and Veterans Day.”

          So they are eliminating all holidays except those which are required by law.

          • Jack

            Are they celebrating those days or are they not holding school on them? Those are two different things in my book.

      • Nick K

        “2) Many Native Americans don’t celebrate Thanksgiving but instead observe a National Day of Mourning. ” You’re overgeneralizing. The “many Native Americans” at least according to the sources you site, are the Native Americans on the East Coast, specifically United American Indians of New England (UAINE). I don’t know that this subset would qualify as many or be particularly relevant to Minnesota. I think maybe you were thinking of Native American Day, which replaces a different and less celebrate holiday: Columbus Day.

        • Kassie

          If you read what I linked to you will also see that the Native Americans on the West Coast also do not celebrate the holiday instead call the day Unthanksgiving Day. So with the Indians on the two coasts not celebrating the day, I think “many” is an apt word to use. I did not use “most” or “all.”

        • lindblomeagles

          Kassie is generally right about Thanksgiving. To the Pilgrims, they were grateful for finding America. To the tribes, the colonists discontinued the spirit of Thanksgiving (they were literally at the table with the Pilgrims) by declaring war on them, and taking their land via treaties that were 1) not enforced; or 2) written in ill-faith. Although Christmas is supposed to be about Jesus’ birth, and Christians do show up in church around that time of the year, the Tree and Present giving is totally commercially stimulated. There was no tree in Jesus’ manger, and Jesus’s parents were the only family present at his birth. Halloween isn’t the best school holiday because candy is the central theme of it for most grade schoolers, candy that according to most health experts is already being over consumed by American children in general throughout the year. That, more than anything, probably led to Valentine’s expulsion; the candy, plus references to light sexuality – another problem common in underperforming schools.

    • leon redgrave

      dominant means a homosexual who’s on top..the principal is the dominant one in his relationship

  • Kassie

    No comment on the other holidays no longer observed, but the celebration of romance has no place in an elementary school.

  • ec99

    St. Valentine, along with St. Christopher and St. Nicholas, was taken off the Catholic calendar by Paul VI.

  • Nick K

    A bit of quick research also shows that most countries in the world now celebrate Valentine’s Day or a near equivalent on or around February 14, so this Principal’s implication (dominant=white American) is also off base.

    • Well, there’s another thing. IT’S NOT A HOLIDAY.

      It’s like St. Patrick’s Day. It has absolutely no value except for businesses. It’s not a day of reflection; it’s day of consumption. It’s pointless. It’s fake.

      Spend the day observing National Math Day.

      • Nick K

        I’m only saying the Principal’s reasoning seems off. I’m going to make a stand on Valentine’s Day. Its importance to elementary school culture is close to zero and I’m sure the kids who want to will learn to make paper hearts on their own. But if a public school principal is going to start making choices based on cultural relevancy to his or her student population, then that principal has a duty to be correct.

        • Nick K

          *not going to make stand

        • Raider_Educator

          Most Muslim students do not celebrate Valentine’s Day.

      • lindblomeagles

        Most of the dominant American holidays are for businesses. Our nation’s retail sector DEPENDS on Christmas and Halloween. That’s why Halloween items go one sale in September, and why Black Friday was created the day after Thanksgiving Day. It’s also why analysts CAREFULLY WATCH how we’re spending during those two holidays. Thanksgiving is about the only holiday that isn’t AS connected to American businesses, but that’s generally because they can make more money off the Fourth of July and Labor Day. Labor Day IS CRUCIAL to Minnesota’s business sector. Holders of the nation’s second largest state fair, Minnesota DEPENDS on people continually showing up on its final day, Labor Day. It’s not entirely clear to me why Valentine’s Day is the only major US Holiday receiving the “For American Business Benefit Argument.”

      • Mike Worcester

        I one of those purists that recognises the word “holiday” for its traditional meaning from Old English, hāligdæg, meaning ‘holy day’. Valentines Day a holiday? Not so much. Now Boxing Day, that’s a whole other issue….

        • lindblomeagles

          If we use your definition Mike, we have to exclude MLK, President’s Day, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, and Thanksgiving as none of these are holy days. Valentines I believe has a patron saint, making it somewhat religious in Catholic History, while Halloween was a pagan religious holiday when it was created.

  • Kevin

    When I was in ECFE in the St Paul Schools with my toddler, the teachers refused to acknowledge Halloween in front of the kids. They seemed afraid to even say the word.

  • joetron2030

    This about sums it up:

    https://vimeo.com/86714663

    • Mike Worcester

      Crap, you beat me to it! 🙂

  • Khatti

    Glad I’m no longer a kid. Glad I was never a parent.

    • Fred, Just Fred

      At least not one within the past 20 years or so.

      • Khatti

        Yeah…I’m a student of history, and I know things are always changing, but progress is more and more becoming a grind I just can’t accommodate anymore. This is the sort of story that makes me very aware that MPR is just not my church. There is the continual need to flush your traditions down the toilet to allow for diversity and the Greater Good (the Greater Good being defined, of course, by someone other than me). As for Valentine’s and St. Patrick’s Day it simply isn’t central to my identity that Hallmark and Guiness suffer financial setbacks for the sake of humanity (“Humanity” being a term that means any, damn thing you want it to mean). This might all be: “The Moral Thing To Do”, but it re-enforces the unintended lesson I learned about morality forty years ago: it can be astoundingly incompatible with your personal happiness.

        • Hopeless romantic?

          • Khatti

            Masochistic sentimentalist might be closer to the mark.

        • lindblomeagles

          I think what I heard from your post is you are not interested in learning more about US Holidays or special days observed by America’s diverse groups. At least you’re honest about this. The only thing I will leave you with is this. Can you truly be a student of history if the only history that interests you is one in which the only people of merit is American whites, and that history is stripped of its controversial and complicated subject matter.

          • Khatti

            I will die without issue. Much of my property will go to my two, adopted Chinese nieces. The rest will be confiscated by the state, and the proceeds will be given to someone who, as we both know, will be some, far-more deserving person of color of person of a non-traditional gender status. Thus I will atone for my irredeemable douche status. What more do you want?

          • lindblomeagles

            As I’ve said before, at least your honest about where you stand. That’s far better than what most people are able to do. My thing is you can’t really call yourself a student of history if you’re not willing to learn about all of it, even the bad, or difficult to hear and accept parts. There’s no question America and Christianity did SOME good in the world for hundreds of years. But, there were quite a few not so good things both did en route too, things like forcing Europeans and Americans to continuously create different sects of Christianity, and exterminating most of the Native people living in the United States (Canada and Latin America have far more Native Americans living today than we do), or helping the fall of Africa by participating in the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. It’s totally possible to make mistakes while trying to do the world, or the country some good, a matter that sadly escapes our political community today.

          • Khatti

            Babe, to be a Minnesotan is to have Nazis for cousins and Vikings for grandparents; I know all about skeletons in the family closet. Do I know that White America has done lots of nasty things to get where we are? Yeah I do. At what point does dwelling on this stop being illuminating and start being masochistic? And where do you want to go with this? this is the question where all you voluble, Left-of-Center types grow mute. What’s next?

            Should we strive to create an environment where the Somalis and the Sikhs feel welcome, and non-threatened, and valued? Of course we should. Do I think this can be done without permanently alienating a substantial percentage of the White population? Nope…and you shouldn’t either. You can have one, or your can have the other; don’t count on having both. Both DNC and the DFL are trying to figure out ways to build winning coalitions without working class whites because they are simply incapable giving working class whites what they find important. (Both the DNC and DFL are willing to give working class whites what the DNC and DFL “think” should be important to them, but that’s a very different thing from giving working class whites what they actually desire.)

            Should I not be concerned with Social Morality? Who gets to define just what Social Morality is? I don’t recall my opinion ever being asked. You keep talking about “Where I stand” Where I stand is irrelevant. Many of the issues that concern you have already been decided. Many of the subjects important to you require compliance from me; nothing more, nothing less. It isn’t enough that I meet that compliance, I have to cheer lead for it too? Why?If the fact that I occasionally chaff under those obligations makes you uncomfortable I am sorry, But the question that I should ask you is if there is any place in my life where you would be willing to give me respite from your obligations?

  • lorentjd

    It’s amazing to me that Masini is spending one minute of time concerned about something that is of such infinitesimally small importance. If Valentine’s Day should be axed because it is “a day of commercialism,” then, by that standard, we should axe pretty much all celebrations from our schools.

    • I don’t believe Masini ever said anything about axing Valentine’s Day because it’s a day of commercialism.

      I did.

      It’s a stupid “holiday.” Better the kids spend the day reading the U.S. Constitution, which would automatically make them different from most Americans.

  • lindblomeagles

    In general, PRACTIALLY ALL of America’s dominant holidays have some substantial commercial benefit attached to it. Memorial Day kicks off summer spending as Americans make plans for summer vacations. In the State of Minnesota, Labor Day is the last day of our state’s larger money makers, the State Fair, which is REALLY important to our economy. Fourth of July generally benefit agribusinesses and theme park marketers as US towns and cities over produce food and fun supposedly in patriotic reverence to the American Revolution. Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas offer more RETAIL items for Americans to consume and businesses to get rich off of. Even Spring Break has become a commercial success, with tour operators selling trips and cruises to school groups and college students. The only TRULY American Holidays that don’t have a dollar sign attached to it these days is Veterans Day, President’s Day, and Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which are held every November 11, some Monday in February, and the third Monday in January respectively. No big money is made off of Black History Month either, but, a good deal of Americans consider that ONLY an African American Holiday.

  • Angry Jonny

    Days off from school for “holidays” is a tired and bogus notion. Label them what they truly are;”teacher recovery days”.

  • Christmas has become Winter celebrations in most schools, and that’s great. My kid’s school celebrates Halloween and it’s a hoot – the principal and teachers dress up, parents organize games for the kids, it’s a nice 2 hour thing. If they got rid of it, the kids would miss it, so would the parents, but whatever. It’s not a big deal. (How were they celebrating Thanksgiving anyway? A big party? I suspect they were just making turkeys on construction paper or something.)

    It’s not about eliminating these holidays, the issue is the incredible amount of self-reflection and hand-wringing and self-congratulatory sensitivity that sets a lot of people off. It’s the idea that if one person doesn’t celebrate, somehow that’s a major problem. It’s the language: “dominant” holidays have to go. Maybe “dominant” holidays can be a teaching moment. Or maybe just get rid of it quietly and not make such a big deal out of it.

    • Rob

      If we’re too self-reflective, we end up doing stuff like wanting to name our lakes and schools after people who were kinder and gentler than the ones for whom they were initially named…

      • I actually think we shouldn’t name Lakes and Schools after people, so I’m all for that kind of self-reflection.

        • This country elevates politicians to a status that is, for the most part, undeserved compared to others. They’re no better and perhaps no worse than anyone else.

          I like Woodbury’s method. They named Bailey elementary after Gordon Bailey of Bailey Nurseries (largest wholesale nursery in the US), who gave them the land on which the school was built.

          Middleton Elementary was named after William Middleton, who opened the first school here in 1855.

  • MarkUp

    It sounds like Vento will only acknowledge holidays in the classroom if they have educational merit, but it’s hard to not see the educational value in talking about pre-Revolutionary America during Thanksgiving time. They’re also the first place a child will encounter someone of a different ethnic background, so pretending Ramadan, Hanukkah, and Christmas aren’t happening when they do is detrimental to the students.

    Also, they’re focused on the one holiday in the year where students are encouraged to give their classmates a card saying “I think you’re special.” I guess there’s not much educational value in teaching them how to appreciate their peers.

  • Leann Olsen

    I agree it is really interesting how worked up people get about this issue. I don’t really identify with the outrage. I have a ton of other things to worry about. Minneapolis cancelled Halloween celebrations years ago and my kid noticed it for about 10 seconds. Pi Day, on the other hand, gets talked about for two weeks. I also appreciate my son’s school, Loring Elementary, that celebrates Peace Parties for students that are on track with their learning goals. They celebrate at the end of the month or before breaks with kids being treated to a seasonal activity or just a fun break from regular classroom work. It also allows kids who are behind to get some specialized attention. Hopefully they don’t feel that they are on their proverbial bike looking down at the kids with dental cards. This is more intentional though. If your “grades” are up you get to party.