Mary Najarrian, principal of Saint John of San Francisco Orthodox Academy in San Francisco, joins The Heartland Institute for a podcast on how her orthodox school balances conflict and education. Saint John’s operates on the liturgical Julian Calender as opposed to the “civil” calender or Gregorian calender, that we’re used to. Under the Julian calender, Christmas is actually celebrated on January 7, and instead of celebrating birthdays they celebrate Saint days, which are part of the 12 major holidays on the Julian calender.
As you can imagine, trying to operate a school on a different calender than the majority of the country operates on can be challenging. Najarrian explains that although it’s a challenge, they find ways alter their schedules to make everyone happy. Najarrian believes that the liturgical calender provides for a more wholesome and naturally progressing life. She says that civil life used to be based on a religious calender, and they are trying to move back to the more traditional time, which allows for a spiritual order and natural way of life.
Contrary to public schools, Saint John’s doesn’t deal with the “culture clash” that occurs, especially around the holidays. You know, the times where the Christian child wants to celebrate the birth of Jesus, and the atheist- er all other belief-systems- are offended, so the school “neutralizes” the holiday altogether? Or the school choir who sings Christmas songs traced with religious meanings, and the administration forces them to shut down? Saint John’s doesn’t deal with that because they are up front and clear about their views from the get-go. Parents are free to choose to enroll their children there or not to- but if they do, they know what’s in store.
The larger point here is that within the private school sector (the free market), parents are able to choose what kind of school they want their children to attend; if you’re an orthodox Christian, then that means less, or none, of that silly “culture conflict” within your school. Furthermore, schools are able to tailor their structure to one specific sect of religious thought if they want to. Najarrian and Saint John of San Francisco believe that what they teach and what they stand for is good and right for them, and they have the freedom to pursue it. And I think that’s beautiful.
Listen to the podcast in the player above.