With the World Series happening, imagine if the subject came up in class. But instead of explaining that it is the annual championship series between the top team in the American League and the top team in National League, you taught your students that the World Series is a nostalgic remembrance of the first World Series in 1903, between the Boston Americans and the Pittsburgh Pirates. Imagine telling your students that we celebrate the World Series every year by talking about what happened in that first World Series in 1903, by gathering with family and eating the hotdogs the baseball players ate, and sometimes even dressing up like an old baseball player.
Too often, unfortunately, that’s what educators do when they teach about Thanksgiving. They teach it as a nostalgic remembrance of what happened nearly 400 years ago.
When I am lecturing at universities in their Schools of Education, I’ll ask the students how many of them were taught, when they were in public schools, that Thanksgiving is a time to remember how the Pilgrims invited the Indians to a dinner to thank them. And, of course, all the hands go up.
The fact of the matter is, we celebrate Thanksgiving every year because the President of the United States asks the nation to thank God for the blessings we’ve received during the previous year. That’s why it’s an annual event.
George Washington started things off by calling on the nation to “acknowledge the providence [provision] of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor.” He never mentioned the Pilgrims.
Until Lincoln, it was celebrated on different days around the country. He wanted to promote national unity and established the day in November for the entire country to celebrate together. No mention of the Pilgrims.
While modern presidents have gotten into the politically correct habit of mentioning the Pilgrims and Native Americans, they also call on the nation to thank God.
It is perfectly acceptable for public school educators to teach that Thanksgiving is a time when the entire nation gathers, at the request of the President, to thank God for the blessings we have received as a nation and individually.
Use the President’s annual Thanksgiving Proclamation to teach about the holiday. Here is last year’s: 2015 Thanksgiving Proclamation (In this one he quotes Washington’s reference to God, but doesn’t personally refer to God.)
A better one that is in the historic spirit of Thanksgiving can be found in President Obama’s 2012 Proclamation. (In the opening paragraph he states “This day is a time to take stock of the fortune we have known and the kindnesses we have shared, grateful for the God-given bounty that enriches our lives.”)
In his 2011 Proclamation he states: “As we gather in our communities and in our homes, around the table or near the hearth, we give thanks to each other and to God for the many kindnesses and comforts that grace our lives.”