Sunday, October 31, 2004

A Spooky State of Conformity

I remember a time when opponents of Halloween said it’s an evil day that promotes sorcery and witchcraft. While these are still vocal accusations, I never thought I’d see the opponents saying Halloween isn’t evil enough.

Alex Tabarrok at Marginal Revolution posted this article today about a Washington School in Puyallup banning Halloween because the school has “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," We’re upsetting Wiccans, thus we must stop. God forbid anyone is uncomfortable about anything.

The Washington Post article goes on to say that this is a growing trend—“It is part of a contentious nationwide trend, as public school administrators, in the name of test-centered learning and multicultural sensitivity, attempt to abbreviate and homogenize classroom celebrations of Halloween, Christmas and Easter. [emphasis mine]”

Now this is scary. We have become so politically correct, so “accepting,” we’re literally white-washing the world into dull conformity. People tell me that globalization “destroys” cultures. That’s not true; globalization stimulates cultural evolution by encouraging collaboration and trade. People exchange ideas and rework their lives. Governments destroy culture because they are under political pressure and have the guns to force people not to offend the “right” group. Conformity is the signature of the state, not the market; histories of China, the Soviet Union and Cuba confirm that.

The school’s first official reason was that these holiday activities take away from schooling. Well, yes and no. Kids running around in costumes may not be sitting at desks learning math, but they are learning something about the American culture (and as Americans, I think that’s pretty worthy). More importantly, any teacher worth their salt could integrate Halloween celebrations with history lessons about origins and witch trials and how too much state power can get out of control rather easily. But because so many schools are run by the government, the average American doesn’t get that option and they don’t get to try different variations on the topic. We are told the one “best” way to do something so we must follow. And we don’t get to dress up.


Chris said...

My proposed solution to this problem possed by the Wiccans would be to keep "education and the state seperate" and not "church and state seperate." If we removed the state from the role of dominant educator than the Wiccans would have no valid arguement against what a private-run school wishes/chooses to celebrate. However, since this is unfortunately no the case, than the Wiccans (and all PC groups for that matter) continue to "whitewash" society and remove any real spirit of cultural exchange and diversity

Anonymous said...

God forbid some Wiccans look to the normal christian view of witches and think back to how many people of their name(witches) were getting burned, drowned, stoned and tortured not more than thee centuries ago. So boo to the wiccans, boo to the blacks, boo to the indian. Boooo, shut up, let us have our stereotypes that marginalize you and turn you into play things.

It is however somewhat strange that the administrators bowed to the wishes of the Wiccans, which leads me to believe that they are great in number, or that there were other more pressing reasons to remove the holiday.

David said...

You misunderstand. I have no problems with blacks or witches or indians. I have problems when a single group can influence society so disproportionately, they tell the public what's "right" and what's "wrong." This is also why I'm against racial discrimination laws, hate crimes and anything else that punishes people for thinking things different than what's "good for society." If the goal is an accepting, inventive soceity (adn I think it is), then you shouldn't tell people what to believe. Wiccans shouldn't demand everyone emulate what they think but convince them that witches are more complex than funny hats and broomsticks, and that doesn't require governments.

Anonymous said...

I agree that in this case, it is possible that the Wiccan minority had too much sway. It is also important to consider that the Wiccan minority's complaints were a secondary reason for the change. The primary stated reason was an attempt to comply with no child left behind policies.

Thus, perhaps, we shouldn't blame the wiccans for having a position and lobbying for that position.