Teaching About Christmas in Public Schools - Teaching Without Fear, Part 16

 How should you talk about Christmas in a public school? Here are three things I suggest:

  1. Use the term “recognizing Christmas” rather than “celebrating Christmas.” Using the word celebrate may cause some people to feel that you are promoting religious participation in the holiday. There is a difference between participating in the holiday in a devotional manner and recognizing the holiday in an engaging and enjoyable academic manner.

  2. It is also best to teach about Christmas using words of attribution such as: “Christians believe...;” “The Bible says...;” “Christmas is special for Christians because...;” and so forth. In other words, can someone who is not a Christian agree with you: “Yes, Christians believe. Yes, this is what the Biblical story says…”

  3. If you read the story of the birth of Jesus to students, emphasize that you are doing it so they understand this event which has inspired so much music, art, and literature. When students become familiar with the story of the birth and life of Jesus they gain a basic academic familiarity with a person who has influenced so many people throughout history in government, art, literature, music, and social movements.

If you would like a list of lesson plan ideas for teaching about the religious aspects of Christmas in public schools, click on the link below.

Resources:

Christmas in Your School

Presidential Proclamation: Thanksgiving 2017

President Donald J. Trump Proclaims Thursday, November 23, 2017, as a National Day of Thanksgiving

THANKSGIVING DAY, 2017

- - - - - - -

BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

A PROCLAMATION

On Thanksgiving Day, as we have for nearly four centuries, Americans give thanks to Almighty God for our abundant blessings.  We gather with the people we love to show gratitude for our freedom, for our friends and families, and for the prosperous Nation we call home.

In July 1620, more than 100 Pilgrims boarded the Mayflower, fleeing religious persecution and seeking freedom and opportunity in a new and unfamiliar place.  These dauntless souls arrived in Plymouth, Massachusetts, in the freezing cold of December 1620.  They were greeted by sickness and severe weather, and quickly lost 46 of their fellow travelers.  Those who endured the incredible hardship of their first year in America, however, had many reasons for gratitude.  They had survived.  They were free.  And, with the help of the Wampanoag tribe, and a bountiful harvest, they were regaining their health and strength.  In thanks to God for these blessings, the new governor of the Plymouth Colony, William Bradford, proclaimed a day of thanksgiving and gathered with the Wampanoag tribe for three days of celebration.

For the next two centuries, many individual colonies and states, primarily in the Northeast, carried on the tradition of fall Thanksgiving festivities.  But each state celebrated it on a different day, and sometime on an occasional basis.  It was not until 1863 that the holiday was celebrated on one day, nationwide.  In the aftermath of the Battle of Gettysburg, of one of the bloodiest battles of our Nation's Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed that the country would set aside one day to remember its many blessings.  "In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity," President Lincoln proclaimed, we recall the "bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come."  As President Lincoln recognized: "No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things.  They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy."

Today, we continue to celebrate Thanksgiving with a grateful and charitable spirit.  When we open our hearts and extend our hands to those in need, we show humility for the bountiful gifts we have received.  In the aftermath of a succession of tragedies that have stunned and shocked our Nation -- Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria; the wildfires that ravaged the West; and, the horrific acts of violence and terror in Las Vegas, New York City, and Sutherland Springs -- we have witnessed the generous nature of the American people.  In the midst of heartache and turmoil, we are grateful for the swift action of the first responders, law enforcement personnel, military and medical professionals, volunteers, and everyday heroes who embodied our infinite capacity to extend compassion and humanity to our fellow man.  As we mourn these painful events, we are ever confident that the perseverance and optimism of the American people will prevail.

We can see, in the courageous Pilgrims who stood on Plymouth Rock in new land, the intrepidness that lies at the core of our American spirit.  Just as the Pilgrims did, today Americans stand strong, willing to fight for their families and their futures, to uphold our values, and to confront any challenge.

This Thanksgiving, in addition to rejoicing in precious time spent with loved ones, let us find ways to serve and encourage each other in both word and deed.  We also offer a special word of thanks for the brave men and women of our Armed Forces, many of whom must celebrate this holiday separated from the ones for whom they are most thankful.  As one people, we seek God's protection, guidance, and wisdom, as we stand humbled by the abundance of our great Nation and the blessings of freedom, family, and faith.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, DONALD J. TRUMP, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim Thursday, November 23, 2017, as a National Day of Thanksgiving.  I encourage all Americans to gather, in homes and places of worship, to offer a prayer of thanks to God for our many blessings.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this seventeenth day of November, in the year of our Lord two thousand seventeen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and forty-second.

DONALD J. TRUMP

____________________

RESOURCES

https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/11/17/president-donald-j-trump-proclaims-thursday-november-23-2017-national

The Reason We Celebrate Thanksgiving - Teaching Without Fear, Part 15

How is Thanksgiving taught in your children’s school? You can teach them to be discerning by predicting what they might learn. Most students, today, learn that Thanksgiving is a nostalgic remembrance of the Pilgrims and Indians. But that is only the history of Thanksgiving.

The REASON we celebrate it is because our President asks us to. That’s right. It is a presidentially-declared holiday in which he calls upon the nation to -- as President Obama said – “lift up our hearts in gratitude to God for our many blessings.” Or as President Bush said “thank God for His blessings and ask Him to continue to guide and watch over our Nation.

Ask your kids to listen -- with discerning ears -- to see if their teachers tell them the real reason for Thanksgiving. Teaching your children to be active listeners – thinking about what they are hearing – is an important learning skill. This Thanksgiving is a great opportunity for you to help them exercise that skill AND learn what the holiday is really for.

Resources:

White House website search for "Thanksgiving"

Presidential Thanksgiving Proclamations 1789-Present

Give this Thanksgiving Card to Teachers

 

 

Thanksgiving Lesson Idea - Teaching Without Fear, Part 14

Thanksgiving Day is a special time to feel a common bond with people across America who appreciate what God has done for our country and our communities. The Supreme Court, in the case of Lynch v. Donnelly, affirmed it as a government-initiated acknowledgement of God's goodness.

Here's one way to teach about the true meaning of Thanksgiving to your students:

  1. Give them a copy of the President's Thanksgiving Proclamation. To find it, visit whitehouse.gov and search for "Thanksgiving." Usually, the President issues a proclamation just a few days before the holiday. So, unless you're teaching about it right before Thanksgiving, you might need to use a previous year's proclamation.
  2. Show a picture of the President, explain what a Proclamation is, and that Presidents ask Americans to thank God for the blessings we have received as a nation in the previous twelve months.
  3. Finally, read the closing paragraph to the class and ask students to list the things the President asked Americans to do on Thanksgiving Day.

All I ask is that you teach the truth about this government-initiated holiday. It's not about the Pilgrims. It's about what God has done in the past year.

Thanksgiving as a Civics Lesson - Teaching without Fear, Part 13

Thanksgiving is a great time for a civics lesson. Teach your children and students about your state’s constitution. Almost every state’s constitution begins by expressing thankfulness to God for freedom.

For example, California’s constitution begins, “We, the People of the State of California, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom, in order to secure and perpetuate its blessings, do establish this Constitution.”

The Illinois constitution begins by expressing gratefulness to “Almighty God for the civil, political and religious liberty which He has permitted us to enjoy.”

I recommend you have children and students read the preamble of YOUR state’s constitution. Then ask them “Why do you think it begins that way?”

The answer is that it reflects the thinking of what the Founding Fathers wrote in the Declaration of Independence: All men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights. That governments are formed to SECURE those God-given rights.

Thanksgiving is not about the Pilgrims. It’s about expressing our thankfulness to God for His blessings – and that includes the blessing of freedom.

Resources:

Preambles to State Constitutions

Give this Thanksgiving Card to Teachers