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Jewish World Review Dec. 6, 2002 / 1 Teves, 5763

Cal Thomas

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Consumer Reports

'Happy holidays'? What's that!? | The desire not to offend has stripped "the reason for the season " of all meaning. Advertisers and store employees have substituted the joyful and heartfelt wishes of "Merry Christmas " and "Happy Hanukkah " with the diluted and mushy greeting "Happy Holidays. "

The stripping away of America's heritage continues as certain legal and cultural relativists pursue their goal of transforming us into moral and spiritual "Stepford wives " when we will see all ideas as mattering, or not mattering, and it not mattering whether that matters.

Constitutional attorney John Whitehead brings to my attention a situation in New Jersey that is emblematic of the gutting of our symbols. Officials at South Orange Middle School canceled a field trip to a performance of Charles Dickens' classic, "A Christmas Carol, " because some students (or parents) might find the play "offensive. " One news story attributed the cancellation to a single Jewish parent who was offended by the play's "Christian theme. "

I've seen "A Christmas Carol " on many occasions and have yet to discover a "Christian " theme in it, unless you consider the "conversion " of Scrooge by the "ghosts " of Christmas Past, Christmas Present and Christmas yet to come a religious act. It is a story about charity, kindness and good will which, the last I checked, was a theme not only in all religions but also among humanists and other non-theists.

The school principal told the local newspaper that the cancellation had more to do with concerns that the play didn't fit in with the class curriculum and "there is a great sensitivity to putting students in awkward situations. " Want to know what was substituted for "A Christmas Carol "? It was "The Great Railroad Race, " which recounts the dangers faced and the sacrifices made by an Irish immigrant, a Chinese immigrant and a runaway slave in the building of the transcontinental railroad. Understanding racial diversity apparently is more important than learning about charity.

In a fanatical and often blind devotion to tolerance and diversity we have forgotten to teach the concepts behind why we should be tolerant of people who believe differently than we do. Does it teach tolerance if we melt down Christmas and Hanukkah into a single meaningless "holiday "?

Schools especially - but culture in general - seem unwilling to talk about anything that matters, other than sex, which seems to be promoted with an evangelical zeal reminiscent of circuit-riding preachers of a bygone era. And so books, such as "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, " about which there has been controversy in the past, are simply removed from assigned reading lists because teachers and administrators seek an absence of conflict rather than a vibrant intellectual debate and an engagement with conflicting ideas. This robs children of a decent education just as it would rob them of physical fitness if the schools did away with athletic contests because some might feel bad if they lost.

As Whitehead said in a radio commentary, "We face an immense threat in our society - and I'm not talking about terrorism. It is the increasing tendency to obliterate our history and traditions in order to erect a saccharine view of reality - one that is not true and will never be true. In the process, we are creating a schizophrenic world for our children to grow up in. And it is neither healthy, nor will it produce the kind of people who will be able to face the challenges of a frightening tomorrow. "

Some might respond to such a statement by saying Amen. But today we would have to say "A-person, " so as not to offend. What's next? Will church hymns be turned into "hermns "?

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JWR contributor Cal Thomas is the author of, among others, The Wit and Wisdom of Cal Thomas Comment by clicking here.

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