This isn’t a religion blog, but seeing as how the day after tomorrow Americans of every religious tradition will be sitting down to a fine dinner and offering a prayer of gratitude for their blessings, I can’t help but alert Inky readers to latest in educational insanity: When teachers in the state of Maryland inform their pupils about Thanksgiving, they aren’t allowed to mention the fact that it has something to do with thanking God.
Nope, God is off the turkey table in Maryland schools, where students are free to thank just about anyone except the deity in celebrating Thanksgiving. Instead, Fox News reports:
“Young students across the state read stories about the Pilgrims and Native Americans, simulate Mayflower voyages, hold mock feasts and learn about the famous meal that temporarily allied two very different groups.
“But what teachers don’t mention when they describe the feast is that the Pilgrims not only thanked the Native Americans for their peaceful three-day indulgence, but repeatedly thanked God.
“‘We teach about Thanksgiving from a purely historical perspective, not from a religious perspective,’ said Charles Ridgell, St. Mary’s County Public Schools curriculum and instruction director.”
Trouble is, in the case of the Pilgrims, the “purely historical perspective” is the “religious perspective.” The Pilgrims weren’t in Massachusetts for the Cape Cod fishing or to hear Teresa Heinz Kerry’s “opinions.” A sect of dissident Puritans, they came to the New World in 1621 for strictly religious reasons: to escape persecution by the dominant Anglican Church and to set up a colony that would reflect their religious ideals. In fact, according to the historians at Plimoth Plantation on the site of the Mayflower landing, the first Thanksgiving, in 1623, probably did not feature happy Pilgrims ‘n’ Indians sitting ’round the table tucking into roast turkey. Indeed, there probably wasn’t much of a party at all. Here is how the historians describe the first “celebration,” after prayed-for rain ended a long drought that threatened the Pilgrims’ harvest:
“Their prayers answered, the colonists thought ‘it would be great ingratitude, if secretly we should smother up the same, or content ourselves with private thanksgiving for that, which by private prayer could not be obtained. And therefore another solemn day was set apart and appointed for that end; wherein we returned glory, honor, and praise, with all thankfulness, to our good God, which dealt so graciously with us;….’
“This, then, was the first Thanksgiving Day held in Plymouth Colony. It occurred most likely at the end of July and consisted of a lengthy church service. Probably, there was no feasting. [Gov. William] Bradford lamented in his history, that when the new colonists arrived soon after, the ‘best they could present their friends with was a lobster or a piece of fish without bread or anything else but a cup of fair water.'”
So basically, the Maryland “perspective” is neither religious nor historical. Instead, it’s like this, as Fox reports:
“‘We mention they were Puritan but students usually just understand that they had a belief system and not much more than that,’ said Carol Williamson, Queen Anne’s County Schools’ associate superintendent.
“Thanksgiving is usually taught as a part of social studies and emphasizes cultural immersion….
“‘In elementary school we learned that the Pilgrims came to the Indians and they all had a feast,’ said Emmanuel Cobington, 13, a seventh-grader at Annapolis Middle School.”
Well, sure. To get into the real spirit of Thanksgiving, forget about Maryland madness and click to James Lileks’s website to see this lovely World War II-era image of feasting and gratitude. It’s especially apropos for this year, when so many of our military men and women will be eating their turkey and (yes, Maryland edu-idiots!) offering thanks to God in perilous places far away.