The whole silly story broke in the middle of November.

A middle school in Winchester planned a December 19 field trip to Stoneham Theatre where 7th graders would be treated to a professional theatrical performance of the Christmas classic, Miracle on 34th Street. But then the principal abruptly cancelled the school trip after receiving complaints from parents.

In an email to parents, McCall Middle School Principal Evander French, Jr. cited “the objectionable nature of the content,” according to published reports. Exactly what part of the content was objectionable? Hint: he has a white beard and wears a red suit.

The play concerns a cheerful old man named Kris Kringle who believes that he is the real Santa Claus. With his innate goodness, Kris manages to win over cynics and those who would ruin the Christmas season for everyone. In the process, he restores an entire city’s belief in the spirit of the Christmas season.

Miracle on 34th Street

The issue in Winchester, at least from what’s been said publicly, does not seem to be rooted in any religious concerns. The principal has said only that some parents objected to “Santa” playing a major part in a required school activity. He has declined to say if it was one parent or 100. But they wanted no children to participate in any school activity where the fictional figure of Santa Claus was featured.

A major character in Miracle on 34th Street is Doris, a rigid, workaholic mother who doesn’t want her young daughter, Susan, exposed to “fantasies” like Santa Claus. She is angry when her neighbor, babysitting while Doris works, takes Susan to see Santa at Macy’s department store. Doris becomes more upset when young Susan is impressed by the kindly old Kris Kringle, who encourages the serious-minded girl to use her imagination and have fun.

The irony hits you in the face like a cold December gust.

Principal French has maintained that Miracle on 34th Street doesn’t tie into the school’s curriculum. It probably won’t shock anyone to learn that the kids at the McCall Middle School were shown the film An Inconvenient Truth, which preaches that the North Pole is melting away. Evidently Al Gore’s film does tie into the curriculum—-as long as it doesn’t mention that the North Pole is where Santa lives.

It’s not difficult to see what’s going on here.

What’s hard to understand is why these school officials would feed the stereotype that paints teachers and school administrators as loony fringe liberals who oppose traditional values like those expressed in the myth of Santa Claus.

Wouldn’t it have been smarter to quietly let the kids go see the play, knowing that soon they will be safely back on the Internet cruising MySpace, or sitting in front of the TV watching Tila Tequila?

If the play were called “The Mosque on 34th Street,” I’ll bet these same school officials would have hailed the field trip as a way to educate students about “diverse cultures.” What the Winchester decision shows is an intolerance of cultural diversity when it includes anything reflecting traditional values.

It’s the same kind of thinking that would have everyone avoid saying “Merry Christmas” in favor of the more politically correct “Happy Holidays.”

But as long as we’re celebrating diversity and being asked to refer to this season as “The Holidays,” may we please include the national holiday that most Americans celebrate?

Merry Christmas everybody.

[This column originally appeared in the December 6, 2007 Wakefield Daily Item.]




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