Part I described the cowardly and pandering rationale for a New York elementary school to banish “Jingle Bells” from its curriculum, and why the cultural and political issue underlying the move is more important than the song itself.
Here is the response of the Brighton Central School District Superintendent, Kevin McGowan, in response to media inquiries about the decision. In the interests of efficiency, I will interweave my commentary with his statement, in bold.
“Several weeks ago, a resident of the community asked for more information regarding an item that he had noticed on the District’s website regarding work being done to review curriculum with a diversity/equity lens. Specifically, he was curious about the District’s decision to use different songs in the elementary music curriculum based on work being done to be more culturally responsive.”
So we begin with jargon and evasion. What is a “diversity/equity” lens, exactly? What values and standards does it embody? Whose position does such a “lens” embody? What’s the objective? Similarly, what is “culturally responsive”? Responsive to who, or what?
“Several staff members provided feedback, explaining various reasons why the song “Jingle Bells” was no longer being used.”
Yes, we’ve seen these “reasons.” They are specious at best and make no sense. The fact that there are what someone thinks are “reasons” for a obnoxious decision doesn’t justify the decisions. Essentially, the superintendent is saying, “We had our reasons.” Is that on the Rationalizations List? It should be.
“This resident decided to write a piece on the subject and it was published last week by the Rochester Beacon. This article has been distributed by the author and picked up by a variety of media outlets. First, we couldn’t be more proud of our staff and the work they continue to do to reflect on what they teach and how they teach in an ongoing effort to be more culturally responsive, thoughtful, and inclusive”
This is pure logical fallacy, an appeal to emotion and popularity. It doesn’t matter how “proud” the school is of the people making bad decisions. And again, McGowan is just resorting to buzzwords, because they are too vague to rebut specifically. I think “culturally responsive” means respecting history, national tradition and American culture. If it means something else at the school, then prove to me why its approach is better. “Thoughtful” is meaningless: so they think about bad decisions; it doesn’t make them better. What does “inclusive” mean?
“Let me be very clear, their work has been and continues to be smart, thoughtful, and well intentioned in every way. We stand behind their work without hesitation or question. They are doing work that they have been asked to do and they are doing it exceptionally well K-12 in every discipline.”
If you say so. Banning “Jingle Bells” because “some people” think bells on a horse-pulling sleigh suggests bells on a slave’s collar doesn’t seem very “smart.” There’s “thoughtful” again: getting desperate already, Kevin? Finally, we get “well intentioned.” See Rationalization 13A, The Road To Hell, which “attempts to justify unethical conduct even when it does undeniable harm, just because it was undertaken with admirable intent.”
You stand behind your work “without question”? That’s just incompetent as well as arrogant. Everyone should question their work, their conduct and the validity of their decisions routinely. The superintendent is making a circular argument: “We do a great job, and this decision was great because we made it.”
“Second, it may seem silly to some, but the fact that “Jingle Bells” was first performed in minstrel shows where white actors performed in blackface does actually matter when it comes to questions of what we use as material in school.”
Why does it matter? The song has no racial content at all. It was written in Medford, Mass. when slavery was banned in Massachusetts, about “dashing through the snow,” hardly an activity associated with African Americans. Since when is the first performance of a song determinative of its cultural status? The melody of the National Anthem was first performed in pubs: does that make the “Star-Spangled Banner” a hymn to drunkenness? Like most of his statement, Kevin isn’t explaining anything when he says “it matters.” It matters because…it matters. How can a school system run by people like this teach critical thinking to children?
“I’m glad that our staff paused when learning of this, reflected, and decided to use different material to accomplish the same objective in class.”
Oh! He’s glad! Well that settles the matter then! This is another rationalization, #59, The Golden Rule Mutation: “Do unto others as if the others felt like I do, even though they may not.”
“It is also important to note that a song so closely related to a religious holiday that is not celebrated by everyone in our community was not likely a song that we would have wanted as part of the school curriculum in the first place.”
Huh? “Jingle Bells’ is not a religious song, nor is Christmas only a religious holiday. Is he admitting that eliminating “Jingle Bells” was an anti-Christmas move that was justified by dragging in a bogus connection to minstrel shows? This guy is obsessed with guilt-by-association. “My Favorite Things” is associated with Christmas: does that mean no songs from “The Sound of Music” can be part of the curriculum? Does that bounce all of Rodgers and Hammerstein?
“Our staff found that their simple objective could be accomplished by singing any one of many songs in class and therefore they chose to simply choose other songs.”
This is naked equivocation and deflection, as well as contradicting what he already said. If “Jingle Bells was one of the songs that could accomplish the “simple objective”—which he still hasn’t explained—then why was it cut?
“Third, choosing songs other than “Jingle Bells” wasn’t a major policy initiative, a “banning” of the song or some significant change to a concert repertoire done in response to a complaint. This wasn’t “liberalism gone amok” or “cancel culture at its finest” as some have suggested.”
See Part I. Here is the “What’s the big deal? It’s only a song!” trap again. Then McGowan returns to his cogent “it isn’t what it is, because I say so” argument. If declaring “Jingle Bells ” to be racist isn’t “cancel culture at its finest,” what is?
“Nobody has said you shouldn’t sing “Jingle Bells” or ever in any way suggested that to your children.”
Wait, he just said that the song’s racist origins “matter.” If they matter enough for the school to remove the song, why doesn’t that imply that one shouldn’t sing “Jingle Bells”? And of course that is exactly what was suggested to the children when the song was declared taboo. Removing something that was once approved sends the message that it is disapproved.
“I can assure you that this situation is not an attempt to push an agenda.”
There it is, the rationalization of the decade, #64, Yoo’s Rationalization or “It isn’t what it is”! Kevin just said what the agenda was; the woke mantra of “diversity and inclusion,” so vague that it can justify almost anything.
“We were not and are not even discussing the song and its origins, whatever they may be.”
Right…except that the supposed origin of the song is the reason, and is the only possible reason, that it was targeted at all. Now he’s saying that the origins aren’t certain—but they were certain enough for his “thoughtful” staff to declare “Jingle Bells” too racist to sing.
One is compelled to muse: is this guy that stupid, or does he think everyone else is stupid?
“This was very simply a thoughtful shift made by thoughtful staff members who thought they could accomplish their instructional objective using different material.”
Thoughtful! Thoughtful! As long as a decision is “thoughtful,” no matter what the quality of the thought—in this case, primitive and abysmal—the decision is a good one.
“The change in material is also not something being forced on children or propaganda being spread. The teachers have never taught about the song in any way when it was being used then or in the midst of deciding not to use it. In other words, suggestions that this situation is somehow being used as a way to indoctrinate children just doesn’t make sense either. It is as simple as this, we are using different songs, and we are not teaching about their history at this level. Nobody is discussing politics about the song or anything regarding its history with students. This is not a political situation, it was a simple, thoughtful curricular decision.”
...based entirely on politics, presumptions of systemic racism, critical race theory propaganda and fear of the race-baiting mob.
“Finally, if there is ever a question as to whether or not something might be experienced differently by someone else, shouldn’t we be respectful of that?”
NO! See the First Niggardly Principle. Unless there is valid and justifiable basis for that “different experience,” which is a euphemism for “contrived offense,” no respect is due at all. Only certain groups find their perspective respected and acted upon in Progressive World. It is a zero sum game. One constituency claims that “Jingle Bells” is a vestige of racist American contrary to all tradition and common sense; another is offended at cultural airbrushing and censorship based on political correctness intimidation. Whose sensibilities are respected? I know whose sensibilities are worthy of respect.
“Is singing the song “Jingle Bells” so important that it outweighs the question about its past or its potential to not be inclusive in a variety of ways?”
Again! The slippery slope maneuver! Oh, come on…is this worth fighting about? My answer: if it’s so trivial, then leave “Jingle Bells” alone.
“If many, many songs are available to accomplish the same objective, then why wouldn’t we use those songs?”
Why won’t you use “Jingle Bells”?
“I think our teachers answered that question very thoughtfully and I’m proud of their work.”
The man is a shallow, weak-minded, babbling idiot. This is the quality of leader that school system has, and this episode is just a fractal of what we are seeing throughout the public school landscape. “Jingle Bells” may be trivial, but children being taught across the country by groveling patsies to the fanatic left like Kevin McGowan isn’t trivial. It is a crisis.