Amy Bass: "December in America"

Amy Bass continues to amaze me with the innovative courses she teaches at the College of New Rochelle.  This year’s course–“December in America”–received some attention from a local newspaper.  Here is a taste:

“The beginnings of the course came from a few different places,” Bass said. “I teach a class about race and ethnicity, and we have a really diverse student body. I have the students look at each other and talk about how they celebrate Thanksgiving and what they serve. It makes us understand what different cultures bring to an ‘American’ holiday.’”

Using that as a jumping-off point, Bass said she also wanted to incorporate ideas from the award-winning book, “The Battle for Christmas.”

She also figured the College of New Rochelle, with its diverse student body and proximity to New York City, would be a great place to teach a class that would encourage students to look at the holidays in a new way.

“Everything just sort of came together. I applied for a grant, I did all the background work a lot of brainstorming and I called in a few favors,” she said. “The students knew they would be guinea pigs since this was the first semester the seminar was offered.”

Alyssa La Starza said she took the class because she wanted to find out as much as she could about the celebration of holidays in America.

“I learned that is extremely important to question everything around me, starting with the basic holidays that I celebrate each year,” La Starza said. “Holidays unite us and understanding the meaning behind different traditions and celebrations has given me a completely new outlook on them. In a way, it was refreshing to step outside the consumerism that is associated with Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas and analyze them on a completely new level. Why do we celebrate the way we do?