Bruce Vento Elementary, a St. Paul public school, has made headlines for its decision to stop celebrating Valentine’s Day, among other holidays. In a letter, the school’s principal, Scott Masini, cited concern about how the “dominant view will suppress someone else’s view.”
There seem to be a few conditions that could make the move reasonable: separation of church and state, socioeconomic concerns and student opinion.
Separation of church and state is a key part of American public life. Accordingly, religious holidays like Christmas probably don’t have a place in public schools.
Socioeconomic concerns would also be a valid reason why schools might refrain from celebrating. For example, if a school’s students had a broad spectrum of socioeconomic backgrounds that might lead some to feel excluded when celebrating Valentine’s Day — for example, if they didn’t have enough money to bring in gifts — then the decision could be sound.
Finally, student opinion is another factor that could warrant the removal of holiday celebrations. For example, if cultural differences led many students in a diverse school to feel uncomfortable with a particular holiday, then it could make sense to stop celebrating.
However, Masini didn’t cite any of these reasons. Instead, he offered a bizarre letter detailing holidays’ potential to “[threaten] the culture of tolerance.”
I’m left scratching my head at the decision made by Principal Masini. By all means, don’t celebrate religious holidays like Christmas in a public school — but an aversion to “dominant holidays” seems strange to me.
Jasper Johnson welcomes comments at [email protected]