A New Twist on Political Correctness

Courtesy of Marginal Revolution, this Washington Post story tells a frighteningly ridiculous (or is it ridiculously frightening?) tale of political correctness run amok.

Yes ladies and gentlemen, in response to the howls of the oppressed, public schools are banning Halloween.

Quick, before you read the story, who do you guess are the leaders of this censorious mob? What downtrodden group's members have taken up torches and pitchforks and marched on the principal's office, demanding enforcement of their Right To Not Be Offended By Anything, Ever? If you guessed the customary Christian wackjobs, you're only half-right. Yessir, this time 'round some of the complaints are coming from Wiccans, of all people!

"We have been contacted by followers of the Wiccan religion, and they indicated they have been offended after seeing elementary school depictions of witches with long noses, warts, cauldrons and such," said Tony Apostle, the superintendent who banned Halloween.

As an atheist and a product of Denver Public Schools, I normally have a lot of respect for Wiccans and followers of other non-mainstream religions when it comes to issues of religion in public schools. The public school environment is a place where social pressure from peers and authority figures can override all but the most dedicated parental conveyance of values. Classroom Christmas festivities may pay lip service to Hannukah, but a Wiccan child will certainly never hear a comforting -- if token -- mention of Winter Solstice.

That said... this is batshit insane. Come on, guys, Halloween is about costumes and candy, the only doctrine it subscribes to is hedonism!

To me, this silly little spat illustrates two ideas we as a society persist in believing against all contradictory theory and evidence. One, that what matters is getting "the right people" in charge. You would think that of all people, believers in minority religions could take a sensible outlook to public-sphere religious sensitivity, having been at the business end of Christian hegemony since time out of mind. You would think that, and as we can see, you would be wrong. The power to tell other people what to do can corrupt quite literally anyone. Two, that public schools and the seperation of church and state are compatible. You can't put government bureaucrats in charge of your kids for 7+ hours a day without giving ceding some moral authority over them. With as intertwined as our notions of religion and morality are, that necessarily means that what goes on in the classroom is going to encroach on someone's belief system. The simple truth is that as long as the public school system persists, some group's notion of the supernatural (or worse, a collectivized mish-mash of notions) is going to be imposed on our children at gunpoint.

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I remember when I was in

I remember when I was in elementary school up in Boulder and a couple of Jehovah's Witnesses raised such a stink about Halloween that our school had to cancel the usual costume-and-candy procession. That was a sad day in the life of an 8-year-old.

Yet another example of why

Yet another example of why the government is not the organization to which you should be entrusting the education of your children. I expect to see more examples along these lines every year. Who knows if it will ever reverse? But I figure the more bogged down the government education camps get in bureaucracy and political correctness, the better. Even though most of my property tax goes to fund government schools, you won't catch me complaining that they aren't very good at what they are intended to do -- produce better subjects.

Don't have time to teach your kids yourself? Can't afford to send them to private school? Maybe in the future more people will think about that before having kids instead of complaining about it after.

No, no, I agree. We should

No, no, I agree. We should ban Christmas, because the shopping mall Santa's are offensive to fat people with beards.

We should ban burthday celebrations, because it's offensive to the unborn.

Goddamnit, we should just ban everything, because, the fact of the matter is, everything is offensive to someone, somewhere. I wonder where people in this country got the idea that they have the right to not be offended.

1. Have you seen any (or

1. Have you seen any (or many) Wiccans calling for a ban on all Halloween activities? I haven't - I see more general complaints from Christian fundamentalists. When Wiccans complain, they complain about the depiction of witches. I get the impression that if the depiction of witches were changed, you wouldn't hear much from Wiccans. It may be that the schools are overreacting (wouldn't be the first time!)

2. Imagine if, instead of witches, it were common to have costumes and decorations that showed old, nasty stereotypes of orthodox Jews. You know the type: big hooked nose, black outfit, greedy look in the eyes, etc. Would the complaints be taken more seriously? Probably. Might schools overreact by ending Halloween celebrations entirely instead of just eliminating the stereotypes? Perhaps.