School Board Broke Pledge on Respect for Minorities
"The Board of Education of Harford County requires that educational programs for all schools be planned to include experiences which develop understanding and appreciation of both sexes as well as ethnic and cultural minorities." This quote and all other quotes in this letter are from the "Harford County Public School System Five-Year Plan for Education that is Multicultural."
The Jewish community of Harford County is both an ethnic and a cultural minority. . . .
How has the board chosen to translate its policy into action?
An open house was scheduled on the first day of the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashana, to introduce 300 families to a much-awaited new school, Emmorton Elementary, in the county's "development corridor." A Back-to-School Night was scheduled at Havre de Grace High School on Yom Kippur. C. Milton Wright has scheduled a Back-to-School night on Simchat Torah, Sept. 27, the night we celebrate God's gift of the Ten Commandments to the world. High school graduations are scheduled on Friday nights, our Sabbath.
This is how the board has chosen to teach "valuing the uniqueness of cultures other than one's own." By allowing public events to be held on the most holy of days in the Jewish calendar, the board has certainly chosen a funny way to demonstrate "valuing." . . .
I have been made welcome in the majority of churches in the county. A large number of churches in the county have visited the synagogue. I have been treated with honor and respect in their houses of the Lord and they in mine. I have never felt anything but love and acceptance from the non-Jewish community. I do not believe that the actions of the Board of Education reflect the views of the citizens of Harford County.
Board policy continues: "Training to recognize and correct inequitable participation in school activities by students and staff from different back grounds." By allowing school events to be held on the spiritual New Year, the Day of Atonement and other sacred observances, the board has done exactly the opposite of what it states in its policy.
To the members of the Board of Education, I dedicate this observation by Rudyard Kipling: "Gardens are not made beautiful by singing, 'Oh, how beautiful,' and sitting in the shade." This is no less true for multicultural education. If you truly "respect diverse cultural groups," then you will actively and consciously protect the 2,000-year-old Jewish heritage.
I ask everyone to call the Board of Education and request a copy of the "Five-Year Plan of Education that is Multicultural." Please read this five-page document. You decide if the board actions have been consistent with its own policy.
Make no mistake, if one minority is ignored and embarrassed, all others become fair game.
Rabbi Kenneth B. Block
Havre de Grace
The writer is rabbi at Temple Adas Shalom, the Harford Jewish Center.