John Andrist: Censorship Lives In School Music

Imagine for just a moment what Christmas would be like if there were no Christmas music.

No Christmas CDs, no holiday music on the radio, no Christmas music programs in our schools, church services with no carols.

There are people for whom music is central in their lives, and others who enjoy some facets of music, but precious few who feel nothing for it.

Now, imagine, just for the fun of it, how we would react if some person or some entity began to systematically eliminate Christmas music.

In one sense it has happened in many schools, particularly at the elementary level. This all came to my mind this week when about forty students from Oak Grove, a private Lutheran church school, serenaded my community with Christmas Carols.

It was delightful, not only well done, but particularly enjoyable, because it has been many years since my, and many other schools, decided to squeeze every thing religious out of school life.

[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]I don’t believe we should be doing full blown pageants in our schools, complete with manger scenes and shepherds and wise men — as was the practice when I was a boy. But I also don’t believe we should purge all religious Christmas music, as many schools have done…[/mks_pullquote]

Admittedly, I can’t speak with authority, because I quit going to school Christmas programs many years ago. My own form of protest.

I don’t believe we should be doing full blown pageants in our schools, complete with manger scenes and shepherds and wise men — as was the practice when I was a boy.

But I also don’t believe we should purge all religious Christmas music, as many schools have done, apparently to make sure they are following some kind of rule we call “diversity”.

All American kids deserve to have exposure to the great body of Christmas music literature. Some Jewish and contemporary too, of course.

To be fair, I’ve learned since I began writing this piece, that some schools do indeed offer a balance.

My music teaching daughter who works in a very large suburban school at the high school level has always used some of it. Jewish music too. And, of course, secular stuff also.

There is no law forbidding it. Still, some schools place a higher value on making sure their school is politically correct. And alas, some schools have opted for no Christmas programs at all. That’s easier, if that’s what you are looking for.

Our public colleges use a great deal of Christian music. Indeed, they simply could not avoid it if they desire accomplished choirs.

It’s not a religious thing with me. I don’t need “Oh Holy Night”, “Joy to the World”, and “Messiah” for my religious appetite. I need it because it is fantastic stuff. My soul needs it.

And I rather resent that it has been systematically censored by so many of our school administrators.

Let’s call it a free speech issue. Doesn’t music deserve as much freedom as the spoken word? I think it does.

And now, Christmas is here

That elusive plea for peace on earth will be uttered again in words, music, and meditation at gatherings all over our world Friday evening.

It is as much a part of our ritual as is “Silent Night”, “Away in a Manger” or the musical soliloquy of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow when he wrote “There is no Peace on Earth” in his beloved “I heard the Bells on Christmas Day”.

Isn’t it strange that the thing we desire more than anything in our world continues to be so elusive?

Or is it?

There are many kinds of peace. Most notable is the connotation related to the end of strife or warfare, But there is another kind of peace.

There is peace in our heart, in the relationships in our lives, in our communities, our churches, our schools.

And there is peace in ourselves. So whatever level of peace you seek I hope you find it in the days ahead. And I thank you immensely for sharing a part of your peace with me.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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