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Dickens classic too religious for school

Posted By -NO AUTHOR- On 12/09/2004 @ 1:00 am In Front Page | Comments Disabled

A high school principal canceled a dramatic performance of Charles Dicken’s classic “A Christmas Carol,” partly because he feared it would raise questions about the place of religion in public schools.


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“God bless us, everyone!”

Mark Robertson, principal of Lake Washington High School in Kirkland, Wash., near Seattle, said his cancellation of a private theater group’s Dec. 17 performance on campus primarily was because school policy prohibits charging admission.

But he said if admission were free, it would have prompted a “secondary discussion about public school and religion,” the King County Journal reported.

When schools in the Lake Washington School District include religion in their curriculum, they must present a balance of many religions, Assistant Superintendent Cindy Meilleur explained to the paper.

“Teaching about religious holidays is permissible, but celebrating them is not,” Meilleur said. “You can teach about a variety of religions, but should not emphasize a particular one.”

Jane Reinhardt, artistic director for the Attic Theatre of Kirkland said the performance had been scheduled for several months.

“We’re surprised it was canceled,” Reinhardt said. “It seems a little late in the game. I’m surprised they didn’t say this back in September.”

The cancellation also surprised commentators for two major media outlets in the Seattle area.

Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat describes himself as a “secularist and agnostic,” but, pointing to a wider trend, wrote yesterday “even a lifelong doubter like me can see that something crucial is being lost, especially in the schools.”

“If kids can’t see a Charles Dickens play, hasn’t the cause of separating church and state gone too far?” he asked.

Westneat said “A Christmas Carol” may have Christian themes, but it’s not religious dogma. Character Tiny Tim’s delivery of one of literature’s best-known lines – “God bless us, every one!” – is the story’s “most overt reference to religion,” he noted.


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“God help us, everyone”

In his regular opinion spot, Ken Schram of KOMO-TV said he talked with Robertson and found him to be a “nice enough guy,” but “therein lies the problem.”

“As the principal of Lake Washington High School, Robertson has joined the ranks of a sanitized society; the oh-so-nice, homogenized world of the politically correct,” said Schram, known for his blunt commentaries.

“PC paranoia,” he said, “has led to the banning of a Dickens classic, by a seemingly nice guy who probably thinks he’s doing the right thing.

“God help us, everyone.”


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