The other day I got a letter from my daughter’s school describing a dilemma that the headmaster had faced, one that his counterparts in many other schools faced too: Whether to close up shop on the day Senator Barack Obama takes office as president of the United States. The school has not in the past taken the day off.
The letter described a number of rationales for doing so this time, all couched in a bunch of “learning about political responsibility” language. Shortly after the letter from my daughter’s school, I got word that the local public school system (along with others in the greater DC area) will be shuttered that day.
These schools all say that, from now on, Inauguration Day will be a holiday.
It’s obvious that these schools and school systems are making this move because they are pleased with the choice America has made. There is no way that, had Sen. McCain been the victor, any school would be pondering a day off. This is one in a series of examples of schools and educators applying their political biases to their pupils, while professing neutrality. In order to maintain the charade, the schools must turn a one-time event (Obama’s ascension) into a policy (every Inauguration Day is a holiday). [UPDATE: See comments below; there is more nuance to this that emerges.]
The beauty of experiment in self-rule we call the United States is that there is a mechanism in place for power to change hands without bloodshed, without coup, without drama. If anything, Inauguration Day is remarkable because it is so unremarkable. Yes, this is an historic rise of an African American to a the highest elected office in the land. But to institute a holiday across the board based on it is wrong headed. While we may be excited about one particular office holder, we may be just as alarmed by the next – the point should be, instead, that daily life goes on. We go to work or school just as before.
Instead, we are treated to a day off because our guy won.