Image Courtesy of cbsnews
“Make America Great Again.”
One might see this slogan almost everywhere around the U.S., but nobody could imagine seeing it as a part of Halloween. The Idaho school district Facebook photos of middle school teachers became a part of a huge debate because some teachers were wearing sombreros, ponchos and dark mustaches while some others were dressed in American patriotic gear standing behind a cardboard border wall for Halloween as The New York Times reports.
This type of behavior is problematic in two ways. The first one is cultural appropriation. Dressing in a stereotypical Mexican costume means the reduction of the culture to exotic fashion. Whether culture can be a costume or not is also another question. The second problem with the photos is the political expression in the school. Border wall costume is apparently a strong political symbol, especially at the present time, which might be offensive to both the parents and the students in a school setting.
After the photo went viral through screenshots, according to The Associated Press, fourteen staff members from Middleton Heights Elementary School have been placed on paid administrative leave.
This kind of action might also pose a problem from the teachers’ side. Getting suspended or fired is a serious consequence and it won’t help those teachers change their mindsets. On the contrary, it might even cause more serious anti-immigrant sentiments among them and more polarization on a larger scale.
After the suspension of teachers, as a public reaction, two petitions came into the scene: the petition with 16.939 signatures in support of the Middleton teachers, staff and head teacher and the rival petition with 14,533 signatures in an effort to “provide awareness and consciousness of systemic racism” at the school, Independent reported.
There cannot be a judgment of appropriate or inappropriate regarding any clothing or costume. However, schools are places where there needs to be a standard to protect children and their well-being. Since the people in question are teachers, the situation gets more sensitive.
There doesn’t exist “the Truth” when it comes to speaking and behaving appropriately. The teachers have a right to share their political or personal opinions about anything in their daily lives. However, in this specific case, the photos became public in the first place although it was a team building exercise done after school with no students present or involved and the photos were taken down later on. Posting them on Facebook made it possible for anybody including students and parents to see them, though.
Another interesting point regarding the issue is that some of the news articles were under the title of politics while some others were under the education section on the news websites. But, those are two different things which should be kept separate.
Regardless of all the points made above, the educational setting should be free from political thoughts and enforcement. Otherwise, it might harm both the teachers and the students. Students could easily be offended by this and it may create a gap between students and teachers. It is not an issue of having different standards for teachers, but they are influential figures or role models in students’ lives. Everything they do might affect students in a negative or positive way. So, it is them who should have the guts to act cautiously not non-teachers judging and putting pressure on them.
Instead of having the petition and the rival petition, I would prefer these people to come together and just talk about it in a mannerly way, especially the parents and teachers. Even if the school district will offer a migrant education program, which will provide annual “cultural training” for teachers and school staff, how effective it will be is questionable. The approach should encompass both “sides” because of the pre-existing tension created by the incident.
It is easy for us and the columnists to sit back and write about it, but taking sides and criticizing constantly might add fuel to the fire in the long run.
Teachers in border wall Halloween costumes put on paid leave (2018, November 3), The Associated Press.
Mervosh, S. (2018, November 3). School District Apologizes for Costumes of Mexican Stereotypes and Border Wall Prop. The New York Times.
Rahim, Z. (2018, November 8). Primary school teachers who dressed up as Trump’s wall for Halloween spark anger online. Independent.