When does our quest for inclusion come full circle and become a form of exclusion?
It’s a fair question, and one that we should be thinking about. Tomorrow is Halloween and this quasi-holiday has become rife with examples where a large majority cannot partake in activities that have become tradition because, in the quest for total inclusion, there are a relative few who cannot partake (usually for religious or cultural reasons).
Take the case of Boyden Elementary School in Walpole, Massachusetts. The school principal has issued a letter saying that the school will be foregoing Halloween this year in favor of “Black and Orange Spirit Day”. <insert eye roll here> I’m going to ignore the ridiculousness of Black and Orange Spirit Day and focus instead on banning Halloween, the wearing of costumes, and the annual school parade of costumes. The principal’s letter said, in part…
“The costume parade is out of our ordinary routine and can be difficult for many students. Also, the parade is not inclusive of all the students and it is our goal each and every day to ensure all student’s individual differences are respected.”
Now, is it ok to wholly shut out kids from activities that you know they can’t do? No, and I’m not saying that. The concept of inclusion is worthy and noble, and indeed should be pursued… just not to the extent that everything else that has been traditional gets shut out along the way.
One of the great things about our country and society is that we have the freedom to make many choices regarding ourselves. This includes religion, culture, and so on. One of the responsibilities of people new to a culture is to either assimilate into the new culture, or accept the new culture respectfully and peacefully (and the same in return). Creating a hostile environment where the existing culture is expected to shut down and pretend it doesn’t exist is actually worse than the original offense. If your life choices preclude you from wearing or ‘celebrating’ Halloween, that’s fine, we all have choices to make throughout our lives, just don’t impose your choices on everybody else. Exclusion has effectively flipped… and made bigger.
What can the school do that would be a legitimate action? They could provide another event for those who cannot partake… and I don’t mean stick them in a room to read a book, I mean something legitimate and fun. They could also have a parallel program to teach ALL the kids about the wonderful differences and contrasts of various cultures. This could be spun into something positive. In other words, make it truly inclusive. Instead, the school has chosen the spineless and lazy way out… cancel everything and create some hollow spirit day thing that has absolutely no meaning.
Excluding everybody… essentially “dumbing down” society, aiming for the lowest common denominator… where nobody gets to do anything in some Don Quixote-like quest for Utopia is neither noble nor wise, and we should be fighting it, not enabling it.