Friday, November 16, 2007

And Another Thing I'm Grateful For . . .

ChoirIt's nearly Thanksgiving here in the United States (everyone getting ready to let those waistlines expand?) but my children have been preparing in an "I don't believe it" kind of way. At Northern Lights School they focus on basic curriculum and things like citizenship and patriotism but in an interesting twist they also go crazy for the Thanksgiving holiday.  It's bigger than Christmas,  Valentine's Day or Halloween if you can believe it, I think it's the only place in the country where turkey tops trick or treating and I think I like it.

And as proof, about this time every year my children come home from school singing hymns. Yes, that's right--singing hymns.  You know, religious stuff you're only supposed to find in a church?  It's bizarre, it's wild, it's amazing.  Normally each morning after the Pledge of Allegiance is recited the national anthem, Alaska state song and school anthem are played (in that order) to the accompaniment of 700 voices but come November 1st each year the schedule changes and The Star-Spangled Banner is followed by Come, Ye Thankful People, Come and We Gather Together.  If you're unfamiliar with the words and think these might merely be bland, non-denominational folk tunes click here and here--it's the real thing alright.

In an era where prayers have been expelled from schools and education forever cloven from theology I find this situation fascinating. Fascinating that no one has objected, fascinating that it continues year after year and fascinating that no one seems to think twice about teaching an overtly Christian song in a public school. 

Now before you go thinking that the school must be as diverse as the Pat Robertson fan club you should know that the school really is a racial salad, with children of every color and background and I'm quite sure there are a few children practicing other religions besides Protestantism.  Quite sure.

I've wondered if I'd be so thrilled to hear them singing these songs if I were Jewish or Buddhist but I can't help getting excited whenever Thanksgiving rolls around and I'm reminded that regardless of where we are in our individual beliefs gratitude for what we have transcends differences in doctrine and that stopping once a day to say a quiet "thank you" to whatever power you acknowledge is a good thing. Even if it means getting a little dose of your neighbor's religion as a reminder.

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22 comments:

Nicholas said...

When I went to school in London, we had morning prayers every day (in Westminster Abbey) before classes started. Parents were entitled to take their children out if they wanted to but as far as I know, no one ever did. We would have a couple of standard Christian hymns from the Ancient And Modern, and the congregation was made up of boys who were Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Hindu, Moslem and unfaithed. It was simply a matter of starting the day doing something together, rather, as I suspect, the children singing those hymns on Thanksgiving do. A communal activity. We often enjoyed a bit of “Onward Christian Soldiers” or “Abide With Me” even though I doubt that any of us believed a single word of them.

Shalee said...

This would almost make me want to move to Alaska... almost.

To have that much appreciation and support for patriotism and citizenship would be a wonderfully beautiful thing to see here in the lower states. And the hymns would be like icing on the cake.

Amen on your last paragraph. It really does say it all.

Goslyn said...

That is the most refreshing post about public school I have ever heard. Your children are very lucky!

Melissa Markham said...

Definitely a blessing! Snow...a great school...now I know I need to move to Alaska!

Marie N. said...

We sing "Come, Ye Thankful People, Come" in church this time of year too.

In my home school I've been trying to review patriotic songs this year. I need to brush up on some of the words myself once we get beyond the first verses.

Babystepper said...

I have the same amazed and happy feeling at Christmas when the Wal-Mart sound system is playing, "O Holy Night...It is the night of our dear Savior's birth." etc.

Janet said...

It's so refreshing to hear about a school that just lets folks live and let live. And I LOVE the name. Northern Lights School. How cool it would be to have that as your alma mater! I despair of education in Kentucky. They're so worried about offending someone that they've lost the focus on education. Teachers aren't allowed to discipline students, so those that actually want to learn are unable to in such a disruptive environment. And of course they don't make anything in this area of the state, so the teachers are those who are extremely dedicated (and married to someone who has a very good job) or those who couldn't get teaching jobs anywhere else because they are so woefully underqualified. Geez. Once again I've turned a comment into a rant. Never mind. Hooray for Northern Lights School! May they be an inspiration for the rest of us. (I love both those hymns by the way.)

MSBABY said...

Sounds like a lovely place to raise your babies! I don't think that the schools "down here" teach the children the classic Thanksgiving and Christmas songs that we sang as kids. Last year we went to one of the church's Christmas program and they didn't sing a single traditional Christmas song. It was nice, but there was a little something lacking.
Jan from http://www.unique-baby-gear-ideas.com/

jubilee said...

I was surprised when my son came home telling me all he'd learned about Thanksgiving from school. (There was much more hoopla for Halloween.) Of course, the focus was on getting together with family and being thankful, but no mention of Who to be thankful toward; no surprise there.

Kudos to Northern Lights School.

Cocoa said...

It's refreshing to hear that! How sad too that it's not the norm nowadays. I love singing those hymns.

Thea said...

Thanksgiving is quickly becoming the forgotten holiday, I think. It really makes me sad. We go straight from Halloween to Christmas and tend to just skip over Thanksgiving.

Why would we skip a holiday that has us give thanks for what we have and who we are.

Short answer: there's no receiving involved. No gifts and no candy. Evidently no fun, either...

Gift Baskets said...

While thanksgiving is indeed an important holiday it has lost its roots to our high paced world. The commercial world has stripped every holiday of its original meaning. It is nice to see that some element of a real holiday is held up in any part of north America.

Inkling said...

I met the most interesting 80 year old gentleman from Fairbanks when I was flying to Seattle, on my way back home to British Columbia. Between your blog and conversing with the man on the plane, I think I'm tempted to move to Alaska.

Reading about Thanksgiving, and especially reading this post, has motivated me that it is indeed important not to skip this holiday this year. I was tempted, mainly because turkeys are so expensive here and there's no one to celebrate with this year. I have to babysit all day that day, and imagine it will be interesting to make a fancy dinner on my own while entertaining a two year old who thinks I'm on this earth to play trucks and Thomas with him. But I can't forget my heritage, and Thanksgiving is too important to skip.

Now I've got those hymns in my brain, and for that I thank you very much. I needed that today. =)

Diane said...

Wow, how refreshing! Maybe I need to move to Alaska. Now, if it wasn't so cold...

Maddy said...

It's taken me a while to adjust to the status quo in the States, but I actually prefer it now.
Best wishes

so grateful to be Mormon! said...

sa-weet! glad to hear it. i am so sick of hearing about people slamming any mention of religion in anything (i.e., "in God we trust" on our money, pledge of allegiance in schools, etc). our founding fathers believed in something good when they helped form our country.

thanks for posting such a positive michelle. kathleen :)

oh amanda said...

Wow. I love that they sing it! It's cool to hear about those few areas that are holding onto something about God. I think they'll be blessed for it.

Coach J said...

This is very refreshing. I believe that our schools should keep reciting the Pledge and teach our children the National Anthem. Singing Christian hymns in public school is absolutely wonderful! After all, this IS a nation founded on Christian principles-not any other religion. Not just freedom of any religion, but freedom to worship the One True God, Jehovah, in the way we feel Him leading us.

Terri said...

We used to know a family that had lived in Kodiak, Alaska before they moved to Savannah, GA which is where we met them. I remember them commenting on the wonderful school system there. Sure sounds like they were right.

:: Suzanne :: said...

Oh, that sounds marvelous, and one more reason to covet your Governor. I have high hopes for her.

Ashley said...

When we lived in Salina, KS, the school systems were similar, it was such a bonus for living there. I certainly wish my kids could have the same experiences I had when I was little. How do they expect us to raise patriotic children. I guess it lays on the heads of the parents. Good thing I up for the challenge.

Mrs Mecomber said...

That sounds like a great school, outside of the scads of PT conferences...

This would never happen in New York. Even a whsipered prayer or humming "A Mighty Fortress" would land you in jail, signed and sealed by the governor himself (except for illegal immigrants, who are graciously allowed to do anything they please without penalty).