Grinch-o-Meter ALERT! Bicoastal Episodes of Political Correctness

PING!  That's the needle of CMI's Grinch-o-Meter registering in the red zone exactly one month before Christmas. 

The Grinch-o-Meter is a tool that CMI created to rate efforts to secularize, diminish or tarnish the celebration of Christmas in America. However, today, the Grinch-o-Meter went off in defense of Thanksgiving as well. 

The Los Angeles Times reported that a decades-old Thanksgiving tradition is under attack because a parent thinks “it's demeaning” to dress children up as Indians.

For 40 years,  two schools in Claremont, Calif. have shared a Thanksgiving feast, with one school's kindergartners dressing up as pilgrims and the other's dressing up as Native Americans.  Not so this year.  The Times reports that after the parent, whose mother is a  Seneca, protested, the children were told not to dress in any costumes. While the Times reporter does include interviews from both sides of the debate, and begins with a straightforward summary, the article appears to favor the costume censors.  Here are the first few paragraphs:

For decades, Claremont kindergartners have celebrated Thanksgiving by dressing up as pilgrims and Native Americans and sharing a feast. But on Tuesday, when the youngsters meet for their turkey and songs, they won't be wearing their hand-made bonnets, headdresses and fringed vests.

Parents in this quiet university town are sharply divided over what these construction-paper symbols represent: A simple child's depiction of the traditional (if not wholly accurate) tale of two factions setting aside their differences to give thanks over a shared meal? Or a cartoonish stereotype that would never be allowed of other racial, ethnic or religious groups?

"It's demeaning," Michelle Raheja, the mother of a kindergartner at Condit Elementary School, wrote to her daughter's teacher. "I'm sure you can appreciate the inappropriateness of asking children to dress up like slaves (and kind slave masters), or Jews (and friendly Nazis), or members of any other racial minority group who has struggled in our nation's history."

Raheja, an English professor at UC Riverside who specializes in Native American literature, said she met with teachers and administrators in hopes that the district could hold a public forum to discuss alternatives that celebrate thankfulness without "dehumanizing" her daughter's ancestry.

"There is nothing to be served by dressing up as a racist stereotype," she said.

After some comments from pro-costume parents, the article ends with a quote from another university professor who opposes the costumes.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, the president of Florida Gulf Coast University has announced a ban on all holiday decorations from common spaces on the university's campus.

The news, reported on Fox and The News-Press of Fort Myers, Fla., also triggered CMI's Grinch-o-Meter.

The News-Press excerpted a memo from the university president, justifying his kow-towing to political correctness. 

“Public institutions, including FGCU, often struggle with how best to observe the season in ways that honor and respect all traditions," President Wilson Bradshaw wrote in a memo to faculty and staff Thursday. "This is a challenging issue each year at FGCU, and 2008 is no exception. While it may appear at times that a vocal majority of opinion is the only view that is held, this is not always the case.”

The story also noted just how sanitized the FGCU campus is:

In Bradshaw's memo, he said the decision was not an “attempt to suppress expression of the holiday spirit.” Staffers will be permitted to display holiday decorations on their desks, but not on their office doors or in common spaces. Traditional workplace Christmas parties are not an issue at FGCU.

“We don't generally have Christmas parties here,” said Audrea Anderson, associate vice president for community relations and marketing. “There are end-of-the-semester parties or end-of-the-calendar-year parties. They are certainly not related to anyone's beliefs.”

Along with the ban on Christmas decorations in public spaces, Bradshaw's edict also cancels a popular greeting card design contest and changes the nature of a charitable effort to benefit needy preschoolers. Previously, the school had a “giving tree,” a Christmas tree decorated with cards denoting items that children needed.  Under Bradshaw's order the “giving tree” has morphed into a “giving garden.”

Christmas hasn't always been taboo at FGCU.  The News-Press noted that as recently as 2001, a former university president lit the school's official Christmas tree and the university choir performed “traditional carols.”

Fox reported that employees of the school are protesting the decision.

Grinch-o-Meter ratings:

Claremont (CA) School District: 10

FGCU President Bradshaw: 10