As my longtime wonderful hairdresser applies hair dye to my roots, she asks me how my kids are doing in school. I tell her they love it and so far they only say good things about their day. I mention how I love that their class is especially diverse this year, with classmates from many different nationalities, which is one of the huge benefits from attending a progressive (and very accepting) school that embraces diversity. They will be future peacemakers and leaders I tell you!
So, my hairdresser goes on to tell me that when her son attended elementary school in Glendale, it was on the track system, meaning an all year (overcrowded) school with different groups attending at different times of the year. She goes on to say that the school separated the students into different nationalities so that each track was predominantly one racial makeup. Her son attended the Armenian track, while the Hispanic kids another track, etc. And, the school made sure that the teachers who taught the track were the same nationality and geared the education toward that group. As my jaw is dropped in disbelief, she goes on to say that in junior high they integrate all of the children, so suddenly the students are expected to be with each other seamlessly and peacefully. So, needless to say there were constant fights and bullying and racial problems. Gee, duh!? Keep them separate and teach them their nationality is superior, then suddenly mix them together and expect harmony? Not going to happen.
When I pick up my little students today, I find out that two moms came into the class today to speak about Ramadan that's going on right now. According to my kids, the month long observance is about not eating and practicing patience. They talk the whole ride home about the eating part, which I guess is pretty fascinating to them. After all, my starving children go two hours without eating and they are famished and begging for food (I occasionally throw in the classic guilt line "did you know children are starving in Ethiopia?", but it goes right over their heads). But, I understand, as a woman that needs her protein or I get the shakes, I feel huge respect for people with the dedication and will-power to go all day (sunrise to sunset) for a month without food or water. Amazing.
Anyway, I tell them that if they decide as grownups that they want to be Muslim, then they can celebrate Ramadan and find out what that's like, but in the meantime it's nice to have friends that you can ask if they have any questions. My daughter replies "No, that's okay. When I grow up I want to celebrate Kwanzaa".
**picture above is a beautiful piece of the Berlin Wall at the Ronald Reagan Library that we visited this summer