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Saving Our Children From The Nutcracker

January 5, 2015 Featured Today No Comments

By JAMES K. FITZPATRICK

A thought that has intrigued me over the years is whether there will ever be an event that will cause America’s Christian parents to rise up and demand an end to the secular humanist campaign to drive every hint of the Christian beliefs of the American people from our schools. I sometimes think maybe not, that it is our fate to go quietly into some post-Christian night.
The country acquiesced in the end of school prayer, to the relabeling of the Christmas holiday as the “winter break” (while at the same time accepting the official closing of schools for Yom Kippur), and to the exclusion of songs with any reference to Christmas at school winter concerts, even the innocuous phrase “it’s Christmastime in the city” in the song Silver Bells.
Maybe it will take humor to do the trick, something so outrageous that parents all over the country will shout in exasperation, “Wait a minute! Enough! We live here and pay taxes too!”?
What happened in the suburbs of Boston could fill the bill. A story on yahoo.com on November 25 reports that an “elementary school in a Boston suburb that was going to cancel its annual trip to see The Nutcracker” was given a reprieve. The administration at the Butler Elementary School decided to go ahead with the trip to see the ballet in spite of the protests from certain members of the community. The controversy arose, according to a story on the website reason.com, when complaints were made at the school’s Parent-Teacher Association meeting by people who objected to non-Christian children being subjected to the The Nutcracker’s “religious content.”
The Nutcracker’s religious content? Now it has been a long time since I sat through The Nutcracker, if indeed I have ever seen the ballet in its entirety. I am not sure that I have. (I love Les Brown and His Band of Renown’s swinging rendition of the score, however. Check it out on YouTube.) I have seen snippets of it, of course. Everyone has. You can’t avoid them; they are used in advertisements of all sorts. I think I remember portions of the ballet in an old “Tom and Jerry” cartoon.
Yet, in spite of my lack of familiarity with the ballet, I know that the only thing “Christian” about it is that its dream sequences of battles between mice and gingerbread characters led by a nutcracker figurine take place with a lavishly lit Christmas tree as the setting. If a visitor from space with no knowledge of our holiday celebrations were to attend a performance, he would not make any connection between the ballet and the religious beliefs of the audience. None.
It is true that the story takes place during Christmas, but you can say the same thing about The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. Also about the popular film version of Jean Shepherd’s A Christmas Story. But maybe we shouldn’t make light of these comparisons. It is easy to picture the people who protested the Boston school’s trip to see The Nutcracker also protesting a high school drama club performing a rendition of Ralphie’s exploits while attempting to convince his parents and Santa to give him a Red Ryder B-B gun. Would they go so far as to protest a film being shown at the school depicting Renaissance art because of the fondness of the artists for religious themes? No Pieta allowed? No Last Supper?
I can’t imagine such a thing happening, but neither would I have predicted a protest over a class trip to see The Nutcracker. The fact that the Butler school district chose to side with those parents who wanted the trip to take place gives us some hope that common sense and a sense of fair play can still prevail in these matters. On another topic: the question of how parents and teachers should deal with the topic of global warming, raised in the November 20 edition of First Teachers. We asked in that column whether students should be taught that global warming is a “settled issue,” as Al Gore and a majority of scientists maintain. Or should equal weight be given to those who question the validity of the findings that indicate global warming is taking place?
We published portions of a column by Steven F. Hayward in the September 19 issue of Forbes magazine as an example of an intelligently argued case that global warming is being exaggerated by political activists. Hayward believes that many climate-change activists do not argue empirically but in an attempt to promote an anti-capitalist agenda.
H.M., a medical doctor from Louisiana, has written to First Teachers to add an additional slant on this question. He describes himself as “a bit of an agnostic on climate control. I don’t think the Lord plays ‘I gotcha.’ He gives us what we need. If CO2 levels are increasing, it may be for our good.”
Increased carbon levels in the atmosphere for our own good? What does the good doctor mean by that?
“The fact is that water is the major limitation to plant growth throughout the world,” H.M. continues. ”Increasing CO2 decreases the need for water. That’s because plants need a certain level of CO2 for photosynthesis, i.e., producing glucose. To obtain that amount of CO2, plants need to open their stomata (pores) wide. However, opening their stomata means losing water because plants respire. During respiration the water loss parallels the size of their stomata openings. When CO2 levels are low, stomata have to open wide and much water is lost. When CO2 levels are high there’s less water loss. More CO2 means more available water and that means greater plant growth. This is especially pertinent for semi-arid areas in which they were unable to grow previously. This may help greatly to solve the world’s hunger problems.”
H.M. goes further: “It’s not as if the Lord did not know what He was doing when He gave us the industrial revolution, i.e., the industrial age. It was a gift. So are its effects, such as an increase in CO2.” For those who want to pursue this matter further, H.M. offers the following reference for an Internet search: Biodiversity (C3 vs. C4 Plants) — Summary — CO2 Science. It will take you to the home page for the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change.
First Teachers has no way to determine if this group’s findings are scientifically sound, but H.M. is convinced they have much to offer in the debate over climate change. At the very least, they are worth a look.

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Readers are invited to submit comments and questions about this and other educational issues. The e-mail address for First Teachers is fitzpatrijames@sbcglobal.net, and the mailing address is P.O. Box 15, Wallingford CT 06492.

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