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The NY Times reports that New York's city council has approved the addition of Muslim holidays to the city's school calendar. The NYC schools have for years closed on some Jewish holidays, as do the public schools in my small town 100 miles from the city (where the number of Jewish pupils is negligible). And of course there are the usual Christian/national holidays.

In my day the NYC schools had a large proportion of Jewish students in addition to what seemed to be a largely Jewish teaching corps. And closing the schools for religious holidays was a bad idea even then! It's still a bad idea, and I don't care whose religion is involved. I can't even understand why any religious leader would advocate less education for all in the parochial cause of a religious event. Instead of adding the Muslims--and thereby opening the door to the Confucians, the Zoroastrians and everyone else--the city council ought to admit that the current policy (holiday closings for some religions but not others) is untenable and just do away with the lot of them. (Individuals could of course stay home for a religious observance as needed.) Bad enough we have religion all around us; let's at least get it out of the schools. They need all the instructional days they can get, God knows.

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Daniel Akst

Dan Akst is a journalist, essayist and novelist who wrote three books. His novel, The Webster Chronicle, is based on the lives of Cotton and Increase Mather. More

Dan Akst is a journalist, novelist and essayist whose work has appeared frequently in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Boston Globe, Wilson Quarterly, and many other publications.
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