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ArlingtonOpinionEditorial: Should Arlington scale back religious holidays?

Editorial: Should Arlington scale back religious holidays?

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It was with the best of intentions that Arlington Public Schools decided to add a number of new student holidays to the annual calendar, honoring a variety of religions.

We’re all for diversity and equity, as appropriate, but apparently carving out more holidays throughout the school year is not working out so well.

One of the major gripes expressed by parents in a recent school-system survey about the school calendar is that the extra holidays are making it increasingly difficult for the school system to provide five straight days of instruction any given week. Given the real-world implications of learning loss, such a lack of consistency is sure to set students back.

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(Just call us “Pollyanna”: We’d like to believe the parents are rebelling against the herky-jerky scheduling because it was impacting the quality of education received by their students, not because it was interrupting their own lives with students at home during the work week.)

A number of the comments to the survey said the school system ought to be including fewer, rather than more, holidays. We have a hard time disagreeing with that.

Because we’re solutions-oriented here on the editorial page (who? us??), we’re going to offer APS leadership the fig leaf they need to both ease back on the number of holidays AND make the students more aware of both the meaning of those holidays and the religious underpinnings behind them.

And before anyone gets his/her/its feathers ruffled, we’re not talking about using the school day to proselytize. Rather, time could be set aside during the school day on certain holidays to explain, in factual/historical terms, what they are all about.

It would require a little effort (and a uniform curriculum so teachers don’t get themselves in trouble by going off-script), but in the long run we think it would provide a better outcome – all students would get a lesson in diversity and tolerance, which most certainly don’t get when they merely are given a day off to celebrate a holiday many have no knowledge of.

It’s so simple, it probably will never be implemented.

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