New York school bans Jingle Bells song due to questionable past

A school in upstate New York says it has banned “Jingle Bells” because of the “questionable past” of the popular holiday song.

Matt Tabone, principal of Council Rock Elementary School in Brighton, New York, told the Rochester Beacon that the Christmas carol and many other songs have been replaced with different tunes that have no “potential to be controversial or offensive”.

According to WHAM, one factor in Tappon’s decision was research published by Boston University professor Kyna Hamill in 2017.

Hamill found “Jingle Bells; or, The One Horse Open Sleigh,” first performed publicly at a performance by the singer-songwriter in 1857 in Boston with black-faced white performers.

However, Hamill told the Rochester Beacon Channel that she was “actually completely shocked that the school removed the song from the repertoire.” She said the song’s popularity has something to do with its catchy melody and should not only be “understood in terms of its origins” in vocalist performances.

“In no way did I advise the children to stop singing it,” she said.

“My article tried to tell the story of the song’s first performance, and I don’t associate this with the popular Christmas tradition of singing the song now… I would say it should be sung a lot, enjoyed, and perhaps discussed.”

Alison Rio, assistant superintendent at Brighton Central School of Curriculum and Education, told Bacon that the school removed the song “Jingle Bells” for a different reason: because “some suggest that the use of collars on slaves with bells to send an alert that they were escaping is linked to the song’s origin.”

Rio said she didn’t take a position on whether or not the theory was true, but Hamill, whose 12,000-word paper didn’t mention it, told the publication that she found no connection between “sleigh bells” and slave bells.

Some community members told WHAM they were disappointed with the school’s decision, while others argued that it was appropriate to withdraw a tradition if it had a racist past.

Brighton manager Kevin McGowan told WHAM on Tuesday that he stands by the area’s “continued efforts to be more culturally responsive, thoughtful, and inclusive…it may seem silly to some, but the fact that the Jingle Bells song was first performed in vocalist” shows where The black-faced white actors are really important when it comes to questions about what we use as subjects in school.”

McGowan also denied allegations that “liberalism has gone haywire” or “the abolition of culture”.

“I can assure you this situation is not an attempt to advance an agenda. We weren’t even discussing the song and its origins, whatever it was. This was simply a thoughtful shift made by thoughtful staff who thought they could achieve their educational goal using different materials,” McGowan told Rochester TV. Changing the material is not something that is forced on children or publicity spreads.

“It’s that simple, we use different songs, and we don’t study their history at that level. Nobody discusses politics about the song or anything about its history with the students. This is not a political situation, it was a simple and thoughtful methodical decision.”

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