Mum wants Christ out of school’s Christmas
Playground Santa debate leads to kid missing classes to avoid Bible story. By Josephine Franks.
Amum kept her 7-year-old son home from school this week to avoid lessons about the Christian origins of Christmas.
Katherine Hogg said she was unhappy her son’s class was being asked to act out the nativity so onWednesday, her son stayed home from Stanmore Bay School in the north Auckland suburb of Whangapara¯oa.
Hogg had no problem with Christmas activities in general, she said, but making them Biblical was ‘‘out of line . . . for a secular school’’.
Her son didn’t want to join the activities because he didn’t believe in God, but he was ‘‘upset’’ by the only other alternative – going to another classroom.
The Stanmore Bay dispute has opened a Christmas can of worms: the Secular Education Network applauded Hogg’s stand, but faith leaders expressed disappointment.
Former Principals’ Association president Patrick Walsh said it was ‘‘PC going mad’’.
‘‘We should accept the traditions of our country,’’ said Walsh, principal of the Catholic John Paul College in Rotorua. ‘‘While New Zealand is a secular country there is no harm in celebrating Christmas with a Christian theme.
‘‘We’re living at a time of goodwill and cheer and I think the parent needs to lighten up.’’
Katherine Hogg said the saga started when her son had a schoolyard debate about Santa and came home upset after a teacher told him off.
In a letter to the principal she said it was ‘‘awfully hypocritical’’ for her son to be told to keep his beliefs to himself, only for the school to offer a forum for Christian students to discuss their beliefs about Christmas.
‘‘While it is absolutely fine for children to hold their own discussions on Santa and religion on the playground, it should not be teacher-led within the classroom,’’ she wrote.
Hogg said teaching religion in a ‘‘historical sense’’ was fine, but ‘‘I don’t think that would include Biblical reenactments or encouraging students to talk about their own beliefs.
But Lisa Reynolds from the Secular Education Network said it would be ‘‘almost impossible’’ to reenact the nativity scene in a secular way.
Stanmore Bay School principal Matt Sides said the school was looking into the concerns raised.
‘‘The intention of this wha¯nau (team of learners) has been teaching traditional stories, myths and legends across the term,’’ he said.
Under draft Ministry of Education guidelines, primary and intermediate schools will have to ask families for their consent to give religious instruction, and would have to provide alternatives for those who refuse.
Schools would also have to be explicit about what content would be taught and whether it endorsed a particular faith.
Consultation on the draft guidelines closed on December 7.
‘ We’re living at a time of goodwill and cheer and I think the parent needs to lighten up.’ PATRICK WALSH