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A SWAT for trying to disturb the peace at Christmas

Submitted by on Thursday, 17 December 2009 No Comment

Merry Susan Hyatt is a 61-year-old substitute teacher in Redding, Calif., who’s also taught in Southern California. In all those years she seldom encountered students who weren’t Christian. “I don’t think I’ve ever had a Jewish child in one of my classes,” she told The New York Times. “If so they never said anything.”

And they’re not likely to say anything now that Hyatt is circulating a ballot initiative that would require all California schools to let children perform or listen to Christmas music “at an appropriate time during the year.”

The initiative suggests that the selections could be part of social studies or art classes or “presented for cultural enrichment during a school assembly.”

Hmm … That sounds exactly like what happened at Big Guy’s school this week, when he and his classmates performed for parents a program of pieces they’d practiced in music class since October.

The pieces weren’t all Christmas-related, so Hyatt might have had a beef with the selections anyway. There was a Hanukkah song, as well as traditional folk pieces such as “This Land Is Your Land.” There was “Put Your Hand In My Hand,” a tune that was just perfect for the richly diverse student body at Big Guy’s school. “We don’t have to look the same to let our voices blend,” it goes.

The overwhelming majority of the songs, though, mentioned Christmas. No, they weren’t traditional religious songs, but those are hardly vocally accessible for first-graders. My favorite carol is “O, Holy Night,” but I certainly can’t sign it. I’d hate to hear what a bunch of 6-year-olds would do to it.

So why, then, do we even need Hyatt’s initiative other than to reaffirm our reputation in the other 49 states as crazy California. I will admit we’re loopy like that when it comes to initiatives. There’s nothing to stop anyone from gathering less than a half million signatures and taking up space on the ballot.

Hyatt thinks we need it because she once substituted at a school where only nondenominational music was allowed at holiday parties. That must have been one continuous loop of “Frosty the Snowman” and “Jingle Bells” and “Winter Wonderland,” because selections without “Christmas” in the lyrics are limited beyond those.

If Hyatt had a gripe, she should have just taken it up with the principal. If that failed, she could have gone to the school board. She could have done some basic research and found that school children can indeed hear and perform Christmas music. An entire program of religious songs likely would draw a legal challenge, though, as well it should.

So Hyatt should Stop Wasting America’s Time – sadly, her initiative has gone viral among the God-fearing “why do you hate America?” crowd – and keep her complaints local if she has a local problem. It’s certainly not an issue elsewhere in California.

Know of someone who deserves a SWAT? Click here to make a nomination.

Copyright 2009 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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