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Bakersfield follies

Its school board should worry about test scores, not renaming winter break `Christmas recess.'

December 26, 2006

DON'T THE BAKERSFIELD schools have something better to do than foment public debate about whether this couple of weeks should be called "winter recess" or "Christmas recess?" Why yes, they do. Rather than pushing a religious agenda, the school board should be worrying about the district's lackluster test scores.

Such considerations -- and vehement public protests -- didn't stop the board of the Kern High School District from leaping aboard the war-on-Christmas train and chugging through a proposal from board member Chad Vegas, a minister, to switch from the more secular phrase to full-on Christmas recess. Same for spring/now-Easter recess.

It was always a little silly for stores to shy away from having clerks say "Merry Christmas" to customers at this time of year, when they know full well the chances are better than 90% that they've said the appropriate thing to a customer. As long as it sees a better public relations opportunity in the phrase, why shouldn't Wal-Mart or any other private entity offer its felicitation of choice? (Though on a recent visit, the harried cashiers were barely managing to mumble "thanks.")

But it's different when a public agency engages in a religiously motivated decision to place one faith's celebration over others that occur at this time of year. A move away from inclusion is seldom good, especially in schools.

Is this an important case of "religion creep" into public institutions? No. But it's laced with humbuggery, sending a message to certain children about where they stand in the board's estimation.

Board member Vegas contends that this move teaches children about American tradition. Quite the opposite. Perhaps he should bone up on civics and culture. That might even help his schools' performance.

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