New York school bans ‘Jingle Bells’ after accusations of it being ‘culturally insensitive’

A New York school in Brighton has banned the holiday song “Jingle Bells” from being taught in its elementary music curriculum following claims that the song is culturally insensitive.

Allegations say the song could be offensive because it was performed at Minstrel shows over a century ago. 

School superintendent Kevin McGowan wrote in a statement saying 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.”

A letter written by McGowan says the move was “a thoughtful shift made by thoughtful staff members who thought they could accomplish their instructional objective using different material.” 

The decision to remove the song from the school’s curriculum was reached following research from 2017 that was conducted by Boston University professor Kyna Hamill.

Hamill discovered that the first public performance of the song could have been during a minstrel show involving performers wearing blackface roughly 150 years ago. The Brighton district assistant superintendent added that bells worn by slaves may have influenced the writing of the song. 

Responses to the measure have been mixes, with some saying the school went too far and others saying the decision was appropriate. “You hear ‘Jingle Bells,’ and it’s just the spirit of Christmas time,” said Mary Santiago of Rochester. “Christmas without ‘Jingle Bells’ isn’t Christmas. I feel it’s ridiculous.”

Another area resident, Ruth Ferguson, whose children had attended the school, felt differently. “It is taking away a Christmas tradition. That’s a tradition, like so many traditions, that we need to lose if it’s tied to slavery or racism. It’s just that simple.” 




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