Diverse Student Body Juxtaposes Religious Calendar

Breaks align specifically with Christian holidays.

October 14, 2019

The Academic School year consists of two large breaks, typically with minimal homework, that occur directly after first semester during Christmas, and after the third quarter during Easter, religious holidays of the Christian religion. While this system does accommodate for a lot of the student body, the system leaves some students, those of religions other than Christianity, with no choice but to miss entire school days altogether during holidays belonging to their religion

These required absences can be very difficult for students to makeup, especially as many holidays fall close to each other. Sarah Yousha ‘20, who identifies as Jewish, usually misses two days every fall, one for Rosh Hashanah, and another for Yom Kippur. Yousha reflects, “It feels a lot even to miss one day.” Habon Samater ‘22, who also has to miss two days out of the year for holidays, says “it’s definitely been harder to catch up on work because of the missed holidays.”

When asked how to remedy the issue Yousha says, “If they can make homecoming homework free they can make Jewish holidays [homework] free.” Maggie Bowman, World Religions teacher, admits that the Christian calendar has the most influence on American society, and asserts “we should be moving toward a calendar that allows for more flexibility, or less rigidity, surround- ing how much is tied to a Christian calendar.”

Despite this, Bowman accepts that “I don’t know that will ever become a reality because it is so ingrained in everything we do in this country.” Tyneeta Canonge, Director of the Office of Equity and Community Engagement, says there are more than ten different religions practiced at Blake, making it a structural struggle to produce a schedule that works well for all. At much larger public schools, the number of practiced religions is even higher, resulting in schools reaching for a schedule that benefits the most people possible. In the case of American schools, this means a Christian-based schedule. Unfortunately, as Bowman claims, it is extremely difficult to deny the fact that it would be impossible to structure a schedule to accommodate all religions practiced. Yet amidst these difficulties, Blake’s Commitment to Pluralism recognizes the school’s responsibility to “help make each person’s experience a success.” It remains to be seen if that commitment is truly fulfilled.

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