It’s Winter Carnival Week at Harry’s school.
Wheee!!!! Let us celebrate winter by doing exactly one outdoor activity (thank you, Harry’s wonderful gym teacher, truly, you deserve a medal or something for making gym class fun) and then spending the rest of the time watching movies and going on needlessly-expensive field trips.
(A school-wide skating party is fun, assuming every single child has both skates AND a proper hockey helmet, because the arena you booked requires every single person on the ice to be wearing one. Yes, the adults, too. Oh, and telling the kids who don’t have gear to “come and cheer on your classmates!” is about the most assholish thing yet – couldn’t those kids stay behind and watch a movie in the gym or something? Anyway…)
A big part – I daresay the major part – of Winter Carnival week are the goddamn dress-up days. Now, when I was in junior high, I LOVED dress-up days. They were fun. They encouraged us to be creative and bust out of our cliques, even for a day. Some people really went all out for their costumes. Same thing in high school. When I was in grade 12 we had “1960s Love & Peace Day” – my mom helped put together my costume, and insisted that I go braless (!!) for true authenticity. Ah, memories. But the point is that in junior high and high school, you’re old enough to put together your own costume or not, as you please.
In elementary school, especially in the lower grades, not so much. I’ve heard other moms on Twitter complaining about this same thing – some teacher cooks up ridiculous dress-up themes, the notice comes home the week before if you’re lucky, and you spend a week digging into the back of the closet and hating Public Education, Peer Pressure, and Merriment, in that order.
These are the themes for this week. See if you can spot the one that isn’t like the others!
Monday – Tropical Day
Tuesday – Canada Day
Wednesday – Sports Day
Thursday – African Liberation Colours Day
Friday – Crazy Hat Day
If you picked Thursday’s head-scratcher, congratulations! You are right there with me, my friends.
I asked Harry about it, in as roundabout a way as I could.
Me – What do you think about the themes?
Harry – Sports Day is going to be GREAT. I’m going to wear all my Blue Jays stuff!
Me – What about the other days?
Harry – Well, I have lots of red clothes. Those will work for Tuesday AND Thursday.
Me – Speaking of Thursday, what can you tell me about, um, African Liberation Colours Day?
Harry – The colours are red, green, and yellow. And it’s African History Month, you know.
Yes, I know. I absolutely know. And for the entire month of February, I’ve heard not a peep about black history. Not one. Not as it relates to Nova Scotia, in particular. I don’t presume to call myself an expert by any stretch of the imagination, but even I could tell him the story of Viola Desmond, for example.
So this morning, as we were buzzing around getting ready for school – Harry wearing a yellow shirt, red hoodie, and green pants – I asked him what he thought “African Liberation” was.
After some rambling stories that really didn’t make any sense, he said “well, I know about Jackie Robinson!” OK then, let’s hear it! Please!
Harry – “Well, we read a story called “Breaking the Ice“. Um, Jackie had some kids? And they wanted to go skating on the pond. So Jackie walked out onto the ice to test it.”
Me – And that relates to African Liberation Day?….
Harry – I don’t know. I know that white and black had to be segregated. But I don’t know what that means.
So, we talked. I explained as best I could about the practice of keeping slaves (he was horrified); the racism and misguided thinking that spawns it (he was even more horrified); about segregation and the American civil rights movement. (He knew about Rosa Parks as a person & a solitary event, but had no context for it. Also when I mentioned the US Civil War he suddenly piped up “the Blue and the Gray!” but then didn’t seem to know much beyond that. I can’t help but think his education in this area came out of Highlights magazine. Just me?)
Only THEN did we get back around to African Liberation, specifically South Africa and apartheid. He asked lots of good questions and got on the bus wearing red, green, & gold, and a pensive look on his face.
It was a good discussion and he’s a smart kid – I don’t mind explaining things to him in more detail, with proper context so he can understand and synthesize what he’s hearing. I have a certain amount of sympathy for teachers who are asked to teach these complex issues to seven year olds with, I’m guessing, only their own internet research skills to guide them. And I don’t know enough about a lot of it, either. When I was a kid, these issues and parts of our history were NEVER addressed. Anything I’ve learned, I’ve learned on my own, and I am completely aware that I’m looking on all of it from a position of privilege.
Within those bounds, I’m doing my best to fill in the gaps. I understand that’s one of my many jobs as a parent.
But man, I want someone to help me get square with how offended I am that African Liberation has been put on equal footing with wearing a crazy hat.