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OpinionColumnistsLane Filler

Take a holiday from school calendar fuss

The Levittown school district will list holidays in

The Levittown school district will list holidays in the online version of the calendar. Above, the Levittown Memorial Education Center in March 2012. Photo Credit: Newsday

So if the Levittown school district had scheduled this recent vacation from sanity for itself and the zealots who rant over its school calendar, would that count as a holiday? Would it be listed on the district’s calendar?

In June, the Levittown board agreed at its public meeting to list only vacation dates and stop naming holidays on its printed school-year calendar, keeping them in the online version. Apparently not many people heard about the fairly trivial, fairly goofy move at the time because the pushback was all of two emails.

There is precedent on Long Island for the school holiday calendar argument. Southampton did not list holidays on its 2016-17 calendar after residents complained about the inclusion of Columbus Day, arguing the explorer caused the deaths of thousands of natives. But it restored the holidays on the calendar for the coming school year.

In Levittown, when the district announced on its website last week that the printed calendars would not mark by name Christmas, Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Rosh Hashana and all the rest, the Festivus hit the fan. The district got lit up by angry people accusing it of caving in to political correctness. On social media, some ugly things were said. The word “snowflake” blizzarded in. One typical comment on Newsday’s Facebook page read, “How far left can you bend! What a dumb and stupid idea! Oh yes your heros [SIC] must be Hillary and Obama!”

The district heard, loud and clear. Now it is reprinting this year’s calendars.

A call was placed to district Superintendent Tonie McDonald to find out how many calendars have to be reprinted, how much it will cost, and what in the name of Guy Fawkes Day the district was thinking by changing the calendars in the first place. McDonald decided, via the district’s public relations firm, “to politely decline your request for interview.”

With life as confusing as it is today, it’s nice to happen upon a debate with such a clear-cut resolution: Everyone’s wrong on both sides. The district was wrong first, and twice, but it only made mistakes. The folks who raged at the district reacted with a sense of grievance so outsized that it should earn them lumps of coal in their Saturnalia stockings.

School districts are here to educate and inform. Taking information off calendars does the opposite. That Columbus Day is Oct. 9 this school year and Good Friday is March 30 and Yom Kippur falls on Sept. 30 are facts. Including these facts does not indicate support for killing indigenous peoples, for the Crucifixion or for atoning for sins annually. At best, most educational calendars would have more such listings, not fewer. Who wouldn’t want to know more about all kinds of important days?

But the district shouldn’t have reprinted this year’s calendars because, and this is important, who cares?

There are terrible things happening in this world, and all of us have only so much time and energy and rage to deploy. School calendars certainly ought to list legal and religious holidays by name, but it doesn’t matter. It feels as if too often the people furiously arguing that these holidays are going to be erased forget to honor what they are all, in their best light, supposed to celebrate: courage and kindness and love and sacrifice and exploration and a commitment to community and shared values.

There is no Anger Day named on any calendar, nor Resentment Day, nor a Week of Aggrievedness. But we seem to do better remembering to honor them than the holidays that are listed, and not just once a year.

Lane Filler is a member of Newsday’s editorial board.

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