When you see a good political issue, run with it.
That seemed to be the thinking of Morris County Commissioner Tom Mastrangelo regarding the brouhaha over the Randolph school board’s move to stop identifying holidays by name on the district’s official calendar. The move, which began when the board initially changed Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day, was rescinded during a stormy and unruly meeting Monday night, but there’s no stopping the political ramifications.
On Wednesday, Mastrangelo proposed that the county commissioners formally condemn the philosophy behind the Randolph events via a fiery resolution.
Mastrangelo’s proposal skipped any subtleties.
It railed against “culture warriors” and “misguided dupes” who are bent on “erasing our shared history and purge our culture of all things deemed politically incorrect.”
It asserted that this type of thinking is throughout society but is specifically on display in public schools by “insular bureaucrats and thoughtless politicians.”
It ended with a call to all public officials in the county and state to resist attempts to remove holiday names from official calendars.
The entire Randolph calendar saga is becoming a fascinating study of politics in 2021.
Let’s keep in mind that we’re talking about merely names on a calendar. This debate had nothing whatsoever to do with curriculum or what actually is taught in school.
But as one can see from the emotional response of many critics, doing away with mentioning Columbus Day and other holidays was seen as an assault on American values.
Still, this was not a cut-and-dry issue for Morris commissioners, all of whom are Republicans.
The proposed resolution was a bit over the top – to put it mildly. Western civilization was not in peril because of the school calendar in Randolph.
Moreover, it could be a silly precedent to set.
If the commissioners condemn, in effect, a local school board, will a school board someday return the favor? Or perhaps a town council would.
Putting aside the emotions of the moment, it probably doesn’t make all that much sense for one public body to condemn another.
So instead of Mastrangelo’s resolution, the board came up with a “statement.”
Here it is:
The recent commotion over eliminating holidays from public calendars requires us to make it very clear tonight that our nation’s traditional holidays and special dates of celebration, reflection and observation remain on Morris County’s public calendar and will continue to remain there.
We do not expect everyone to recognize each and every one of those special dates. But we must respect the right of our neighbors to honor whichever of those dates they choose, and without fear that a government agency will suddenly eliminate them.
We look forward to celebrating the Fourth of July, Labor Day, Columbus Day and all other upcoming holidays.
That’s not very scintillating, but it apparently is the commissioners’ response to the mayhem in Randolph, at least for now.
It will be more interesting to see what happens next in the world of school boards across the state.
To some conservatives, this issue, as we said, highlights the need to fight “progressive” thinking in the public school system.
Will that happen?
We may get an inkling by July 26. That is the deadline for school board candidates to file nominating petitions for this fall’s election.
At this week’s Randolph meeting, there was much talk about voting school board members out of office. Talk is one thing, action is another.
Just for the record, three of the nine school board members in Randolph are up this year.