‘Jingle Bells’ – one of the best-known and most commonly sung American songs in the world, has been removed from New York primary school’s curriculum for its “potential to be controversial or offensive.”
To make the absurd situation worse, the school superintendent, Kevin McGowan, called the ludicrous decision to ban the song a “thoughtful shift made by thoughtful staff members.”
Brighton’s Council Rock Primary school principal Matthew Tappon, in an email to local news outlet The Rochester Beacon, explained that the Christmas favorite had been replaced with other songs because of its connection with the 19th century blackface performing tradition.
According to Tappon, the descision to ban the song was prompted by a 2017 article by Boston University Professor Kyna Hamill. The researcher found documents showing a connection between ‘Jingle Bells’ and blackface minstrelsy, a popular form of entertainment in mid-19th-century America.
Professor Hamill said that she was “shocked” with the school’s decision to ‘cancel’ a song.
“I, in no way, recommended that it stopped being sung by children,” she said in an email.”
The professor added that her research was simply telling the story of the first performance of the song and is in no way connected “with the popular Christmas tradition of singing the song now.”
She went on to say that the song’s popularity and its catchy melody is an interesting phenomenon by itself and should not be perceived only via the prism of its minstrel-era origin.
“I would say it should very much be sung and enjoyed, and perhaps discussed,” Professor Hamill said.
Meanwhile, the school officials attempted to provide another reason for their decision, saying that the ‘sleigh bells’ in the song could be related to bells on slaves’ collars.
Professor Hamill recommended backing up this claim by “a well-referenced source” if the school wants to use it as an argument for cutting the song.