'Jingle Bells' Axed by New York School Over Concerns Song's Origins Are Racist
18:58 GMT 02.01.2022 (Updated: 21:07 GMT 19.10.2022)
The author of the article about what was possibly the first public performance of 'Jingle Bells' reportedly insisted that she is “quite shocked” by the school’s move and in no way recommended the song should be “stopped being sung by children”.
A school in New York has ended up dropping the popular Christmas song 'Jingle Bells' from their repertoire over concerns that it may have ties to blackface minstrel shows of the 19th century.
According to local newspaper the Rochester Beacon, Matt Tappon, principal of Council Rock Primary School in the town of Brighton, confirmed that the decision to drop the song was based “in part” on information from an article penned in 2017 by Kyna Hamill, director of Boston University’s Core Curriculum, who discovered documents suggesting that 'Jingle Bells' might have been first performed in public at a minstrel show in Boston in 1857.
Tappon reportedly explained in an email that 'Jingle Bells' got replaced with songs that don’t have “the potential to be controversial or offensive”.
The media outlet said, however, that Hamill, when told of this development, said in an email: “I am actually quite shocked the school would remove the song from the repertoire. … I, in no way, recommended that children stop singing it.”
She further insisted that her article “tried to tell the story of the first performance of the song”, and that she does not “connect this to the popular Christmas tradition of singing the song now”.
“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,” she added. “I would say it should very much be sung and enjoyed, and perhaps discussed.”
Meanwhile, Brighton Central School District assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction Allison Rioux reportedly proposed a different reason for the song’s cancellation.
“Some suggest that the use of collars on slaves with bells to send an alert that they were running away is connected with the origin of the song 'Jingle Bells',” she claimed. “While we are not taking a stand to whether that is true or not, we do feel strongly that this line of thinking is not in agreement with our beliefs to value all cultures and experiences of our students.”
She added that it is for that reason, “along with the idea that there are hundreds of other five-note songs”, that they opted to “not teach the song directly to all students”.
According to New York Post, a number of upstate New York residents ended up being “riled up” by that development, with people condemning the school for “killing a popular, seemingly harmless holiday tradition”.
Brighton Central School District Superintendent Kevin McGowan said this wasn’t “'liberalism gone amok’ or ‘cancel culture at its finest’ as some have suggested [but rather] a simple, thoughtful curricular decision."
“Nobody has said you shouldn’t sing ‘Jingle Bells’ or ever in any way suggested that to your children,” he elaborated. “I can assure you that this situation is not an attempt to push an agenda.”