Schools have become a bastion for wokeness in the era of cancel culture, and one school went as far as banning one of the most popular Christmas tunes of all time.
The classic “Jingle Bells” is a staple of the Christmas season but at Council Rock Primary School in Rochester, New York it is no longer welcome, The Rochester Beacon reported.
“Jingle Bells,” explained Council Rock principal Matt Tappon in an email, has been replaced with other songs that don’t have “the potential to be controversial or offensive.”
“Jingle Bells” offensive? How so?
Tappon and other staff confirmed by email that the decision to remove the song was based in part on information in a 2017 article written by professor Kyna Hamill, director of Boston University’s Core Curriculum. Hamill’s article is a deep dive (nearly 12,000 words including appendices and footnotes) into the origin of “Jingle Bells,” the life of its composer, James L. Pierpont, and the popularity of sleigh songs in the mid-1800s. She found documents showing that the song’s first public performance may have occurred in 1857 at a Boston minstrel show. Minstrelsy was a then-popular form of entertainment in which white actors performed in blackface.
But the author of the story was stunned by the school’s decision to ban the popular tune based, in part, on her writing.
“I am actually quite shocked the school would remove the song from the repertoire. … I, in no way, recommended that it stopped being sung by children,” she said.
“My article tried to tell the story of the first performance of the song, I do not connect this to the popular Christmas tradition of singing the song now,” the writer said.
“The very fact of (‘Jingle Bells’) popularity has to do (with) the very catchy melody of the song, and not to be only understood in terms of its origins in the minstrel tradition. … I would say it should very much be sung and enjoyed, and perhaps discussed,:” she said.
There are no racist words or even racist overtones in the holiday classic that any reasonable person could cite as an issue, but this is how far cancel culture has gotten.
I have procured all of the Rankin / Bass Christmas cartoons on DVD as well as “A Christmas story” because at this pace how long can they last before they are removed from our television screens?
When The Beacon informed Council Rock staff of what the author said, and how she had never heard of a school banning the tune before, Allison Rioux, Brighton Central School District assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, offered another explanation for its head scratching decision to remove it.
“Some suggest that the use of collars on slaves with bells to send an alert that they were running away is connected to the origin of the song Jingle Bells. While we are not taking a stance to whether that is true or not, we do feel strongly that this line of thinking is not in agreement with our district beliefs to value all cultures and experiences of our students,” she said.
“For this reason,” she said, “along with the idea that there are hundreds of other 5 note songs, we made the decision to not teach the song directly to all students.”
But when Hamill was informed of this response she smacked it down as well.
“The use of bells on enslaved peoples may be true, but there is no connection to the song that I have discovered in my research. Perhaps finding a well-referenced source for this claim might be in order if that is what (school officials) want to determine as the cause for not singing it,” the author said.
“In today’s world, with culture wars too often raging and school children and parents increasingly caught in the middle, it’s often difficult to determine whether a given decision is just politically correct or actually wise.
“And certainly, within the scope of trying to reform the curriculum of a school district comprising four buildings, hundreds of professional and support staff, and thousands of students to be more diverse and inclusive, the removal of one song is a small matter,” she said.
“But once you get that tune in your head—’Dashing through the snow, in a one-horse open sleigh’—it’s hard to get it out. I got the tune in my head, so I figured—small matter or not—I might as well try to learn more about how and why the school came to remove it.
“Besides, as a Brighton resident and alumnus of Council Rock, I have an affinity for the school and like to understand what’s going on there,” she said.