Halloween has always held special memories for me. The city I grew up in made Halloween their big holiday. Preparations started at the beginning of October.  Kids from elementary to High School were invited to paint the windows of shops in Downtown with Halloween scenes. I remember painting pumpkins with my mother and older brother. It didn’t have to be professional looking.  It was more about having fun.  The store owners enjoyed watching, and families would come and see all the work their kids and friends did.

In the local park near Downtown there would be a carnival, a Halloween carnival, not an “Fall Festival” or whatever other euphemism they’re using nowadays. There would be food, rides and game booths, all with a spooky theme. All of this was leading up to the big event: a parade. Just like Pasadena’s New Years, or Hollywood’s Christmas, we had a Halloween parade.  It was usually on the Saturday before Halloween and had floats, marching bands and local groups, just like you expect from parades.  What I remember about the parades, is sitting in the back of a pickup truck that was parked along the route, off the street.  We could sit in the bed of the truck and see the parade without fighting the crowd.  Vendors would walk along the parade, pushing carts filled with cotton candy and long red or blue trumpets.  I always wanted on of those trumpets.

But Halloween was for everyone.  So, the Big Parade, as the Saturday night parade was called, was for the adults and families to participate in and watch.  But the afternoon was for the kiddie parade.  All the elementary students got out of school early, and got dressed in their Halloween costumes and had a mini parade to show them off.  There was no concern about the kids missing a day of instruction, or what it would do to their ability to concentrate and learn.

This is a big contrast to my kids going to school today.  Granted, this isn’t my hometown, and Halloween doesn’t get the same attention as it used to.  But it’s still the kid’s favorite holiday (after Christmas).  Dressing up and going trick or treating is on their mind for most of the month.  So it’s pretty ludicrous for the school to call us parents and tell us that  our kids are not to dress up at school, because it would be “a distraction” and “detrimental to the learning environment”.

That’s right.  In this world of “No Child Left Behind”, our schools are making sure that childhood IS left behind.  Here in California at least.  Too much emphasis is being put on sheer instruction, and the childhood that so many of us adults cherish now is be deprived from our kids.  I’m not saying education isn’t important, but it shouldn’t and isn’t the be-all, end-all of a child’s life.  And letting kids have one day to dress up and goof around a little isn’t going to undo the rest of the year’s instruction.  Especially when Halloween lands on a Friday, when kids heads aren’t on school, but the weekend anyway.

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