Schools should recognize more cultural holidays

Lunar New Yr

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

By Shaneli Mirpuri

All students are grateful for the holidays that give us a break from school. Students enjoy winter break to celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa and spring break for Easter and Passover. Some students even thank their Jewish friends for having no school on holidays like Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah.

However, when you look at the list of no-school days, the overwhelming majority of them are taken off for Christian or Jewish holidays. Even then, Christian holidays are often turned into longer breaks in the school year, in the forms of winter and spring break, rather than simply Christmas and Easter. Jewish holidays are just scattered days off from school, including Tuesdays, which cause a split in the school week, for the entire student body because of singular religious events.

Public schools close on these holidays because there are not enough non-Jewish substitutes to cover the positions required, so the schools often cannot afford to open on these days, according to the Baltimore County Board of Education.

A student who misses school for religious or cultural events will receive an “excused” absence. However, this is not enough since the absence remains on the student’s record and students still miss coursework from their missed classes.

Asians make up a large proportion of the American population as well as approximately one-third of Granada Hills Charter High School’s (GHCHS) student population. Yet, despite this large population, not a single day is taken off for any of their cultural holidays.

Many students in public schools across the U.S. take off school to spend the Lunar New Year holiday at home with their families. The holiday is an important celebration for Asian American families to come together and celebrate. For Koreans, the first day of the Lunar New Year is the most important national holiday of the year and is designated for family reunions. During the three-day new year party, occurring in late January or February, Koreans gather with family members to honor their deceased ancestors.

Many Indian students participate in the Festival of Lights and the Indian New Year, Diwali, which begins on a weekday in mid-October or early November. Due to the timing of this holiday, many students barely have any time to do their homework or study for their tests the following day. The lack of homework time and sleep can be detrimental to a student’s performance, but missing the following day to rest can also harm the student, who now needs to catch up in multiple classes.

“When we have school on such important Indian holidays, it ruins the holiday…we still have to attend both school and the festivities without much time to rest or do homework in between,” junior Bhavini Prabhu said.

Schools should also recognize Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, the holiest days of the Muslim year, out of respect for the Muslim faith. Eid al-Fitr comes at the end of Ramadan, the month of fasting, while Eid al-Adha marks the end of the annual pilgrimage to Mecca. Both are observed through prayer and time with family.  Many Muslim students take these days off to properly participate in the holidays and inevitably suffer the consequences of missing school.

Just because the school’s staff is not composed of a significant number of a particular race does not mean that the student body is not.

Closing schools for the holidays will not negatively impact the learning of students. Instead, these holidays will encourage cultural awareness.

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