To the parents of students at Sunnyvale Public Elementary:
The PTO has been asked by Principal Steiner to write a letter of apology which addresses complaints surrounding the all-school assembly featuring a show by the “J.C. is Magic! Magicians.”
And so, we the PTO officers (minus Rachel Greenberg) are writing this letter to say we are sorry some of you were offended by the magic show. First off, we didn’t even know the show had anything to do with Christianity. We thought the guy’s name was J.C. since that’s how he answered his phone!
In any case, we don’t understand why anyone would even be offended by an assembly that promoted positive messages for children, like studying hard, not stealing, not killing anybody (who’s against that???), keeping the Sabbath holy, etc., all as part of an entertaining magic show.
When J.C. was playing the guess-which-card game, and he asked which card was the highest of all, the PTO had no idea he would pull out a card labeled King of Kings with a photo of a feathered hair Jesus looking kind of like one of the BeeGees. We did not know he was going to give candy only to the children who had been “saved” and that the unsaved kids (which wasn’t many, which makes us think they did not understand the question) would have to sit criss-cross applesauce while the chosen children filed up to the stage to collect their Tootsie Rolls. We did not know J.C. would describe the scorching fire that would melt the skin off the kids sitting criss-cross applesauce, causing some of the kindergarteners to cry. To his credit, J.C. explained the kids had a choice of whether or not they wanted their skin to melt off. We all have a choice!
We realize that, technically, public schools should not sponsor religiously themed programs, but as we understand it, local jurisdictions have some “leeway” to “creatively interpret” those laws as befits their particular community. And, come on, the Christian schools are expensive! It’s not fair to expect all the Christian kids (though there is no formal polling of Sunnyvale families’ religious beliefs, because that would be “illegal,” we are sure it’s the vast majority) to get the lessons they need only on Sundays. During the five perfectly good weekdays, it wouldn’t hurt any kid to learn a little bit about why he is here in the first place, and who brought him here to this world, and to the greatest country on earth, to the greatest school in the county. Go Sunnyvale!
One more point…not one of our K-4 students left the auditorium during the magic show, so no one must have been that upset. All they would have had to do if they wanted to leave was raise their hand, walk across the gym to Mr. Slater, get a red hall pass, have it checked and time-stamped by Mrs. Flanders on the other side of the gym, and leave via the fire exit to sit outside quietly until it was over. But none of them did!
Also, we are STILL getting messages regarding the band that played at the end-of-year cookout. We are sorry some of you were offended by the band’s positive, G-rated Christian rock. If you’d like, if it would make it more palatable to you, just substitute any of the band’s lyrics including the words “Him” or “He” or “Lord” with Krishna, Allah or the Easter Bunny. We are also sorry some of you would not eat the all-pork hot dogs. But, if you want Green Day and a veggie burger, you really need to go someplace other than the Sunnyvale Public Elementary End-of-School Picnic. Plus, that was LAST YEAR, people!
We have not had any calls, by the way, regarding Mrs. Gupta taking her 3rd graders to some “nature center” in the city last week, which the PTO understands contains some kind of “meditation garden” that kids were “encouraged but not required” to walk through. Apparently Mrs. Gupta thought this was a perfectly acceptable field trip, taking kids to a park where stone Buddha heads were lolling around every corner where kids couldn’t fail to see them! Plus, they did yoga!!!
Lastly, to answer some of the parents’ specific questions left on the school secretary’s voicemail (Note: please do not leave messages for PTO on the secretary’s voicemail; instead contact your PTO president via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org):
- No, you may not get your money back from the cupcake cook-off fundraiser used to pay J.C. He has already cashed the check. Also, we bought new, folding tables for the book sale. So, that ship has sailed!
- No, we are not resigning, because, what kind of message would that send the kids about “conflict resolution?” If you have prominently displayed on your refrigerator the Buster Beaver’s Choice O’ Meter that was sent home in September, you know that Sunnyvale kids are being taught that they have options in the face of disagreement, which includes talking it out with the other person, telling a teacher, or walking away. But, “walking away” should be the last alternative! The PTO is not walking away.
- No, our heads are not stuck in a hole in the ground, nor in our “butts,” as some of you have so rudely suggested using other language we will not print here.
So, to conclude, we are sorry some of you were offended. We are sorry that a perfectly pleasant magic show, which also contained wholesome messages of Jesus’s kindness and love, offended certain parents at our public school. And we thank others of you for the phone calls and notes in our support 😉
Your PTO Officers (minus Rachel Greenberg)*
*resigned for “personal reasons”
P.S. The PTO, after much discussion, decided to accept the geologic rock collection donated by the retired college geology professor with grandkids at the school, so you can quit calling about that. The only thing we changed was taking off the dates on the rocks because, seriously, some of these rocks, if the attached signage was to be believed, are supposed to be, like, a million (!) years old. The “professor” refused to remove the dates, saying that was the whole point of the thing, which really showed a lot of inflexibility on his part, and disrespect, we might add, to the Creationist children at our school. How are kids supposed to learn “critical thinking” if “scientists” are always “telling them things?”
P.P.S. We need volunteers for the annual book sale! This year, we’re pleased to be partnering with a new supplier that promises books “teaching the values kids so desperately need in today’s increasingly secular world.” Please give a warm Sunnyvale welcome to LightHouseKids Books!
[This piece originally appeared on The Awl.]
Illustration by Sarah Letteney