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Don't cancel the Global Connections Festival!

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Dear Mrs. McNeill and the Walton Administration,


My name is Aditya Krishnaswamy and I am a Senior at Walton High School. Several of my closest friends are involved in Global Connections Club and have recently told me how the Global Festival has been cancelled for religious reasons. After hearing this, I was heart-broken.


I am in no way connected to Global Connections or the festival, but I am truly saddened at how the festival may not happen this year. To me, Walton is an amazing school for one major reason: the diversity. Many universities try so hard to create the perfect student population with the perfect amount of cultural diversity, but for Walton it is already present. Every year, I attend this festival as an opportunity to see the amazing diversity at Walton High School and the amazing cultural skills and knowledge Walton students possess. Cancelling the festival is the same as failing to recognize the diversity at Walton High School. Every year, I truly look forward to this festival as an opportunity to meet other people, to learn, and to expand my horizons beyond the East Cobb bubble. High school is all about education and maturation, and this festival does an excellent job of educating students about the world and combatting ignorance.


You may not know, but this Friday there is a major Hindu holiday, Hanuman Jayanthi. This festival was an amazing opportunity for Hindus, like myself, to educate the population about Hinduism and this holiday. In my classes, I feel that Hinduism is done lip service to compared to Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. This festival combats the ignorance of “minor” religions, such as Hinduism, and cultures by giving students a glimpse into other religions and cultures. By cancelling this festival for a Jewish holiday, we are failing to recognize the cultural and religious diversity at Walton High School. By cancelling this festival for a Jewish holiday, we are prioritizing one religion over others, which is incorrect. I am not saying that it is wrong to recognize Passover, but rather than cancel the Global Connections Festival for Passover, why not embrace it and use the festival as an opportunity to educate the community about Passover, Hanuman Jayanthi, other holidays, other religions, and other cultures?


I find it somewhat disrespectful to even consider cancelling the festival for religious reasons. One of the reasons my parents chose Walton and public school was “separation of church and state.” It is a dangerous precedent to set to cancel the festival over religious reasons. I am somewhat appalled at how Walton and other public schools offer so much leniency to religions such as Christianity and Judaism but not to Hinduism and minor religions.


My freshman year I missed school for a religious reason. As a Brahmin, I was required to go to temple on a weekday for the ceremony. When I came back to school with an excuse from my priest, I was immediately dismissed by PPO because my religious ceremony was not recognized by the “official book.” According to the school, because my ceremony was not in the book that detailed the dates of holidays and religious occasions that are officially accepted, my absences were unexcused and I lost incentive my freshman year. The reason my ceremony was not in the book was because the ceremony is only for Brahmins and Hinduism follows a lunar calendar so the date of the ceremony changes yearly. While I am not upset, why is it that my religious occasion is not recognized while holidays such as Passover and Good Friday dramatically affect class and school schedules?


This is heart-breaking not only for me, but for the people who put hours upon hours of work into the event. After almost half a year of hard work, they do not get the chance to see the culmination of all their efforts. Over Winter Break and February Break, my friends were hard at work perfecting their performances, their booths, and the logistics of the program. I know that an involved educator such as yourself does not wish to see so many members of the student body disheartened by the cancellation of the Global Festival. It is an important tradition that celebrates all cultures and does not discriminate in the slightest. It would be an utmost tragedy to not allow such a wonderful tradition at Walton High School to proceed this year.


I ask you to reconsider having this festival this Friday, not only for people like me who love attending this festival every year, but for all of the people that have put countless hours of work into making this upcoming festival a success.


Sincerely,
Aditya Krishnaswamy



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