TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — A school district in upstate New York has banned the use of the iconic holiday song “Jingle Bells” in its curriculum.
The district said the song was replaced with more “contemporary, and relevant content” due to its “questionable past.” Other songs were also removed from the curriculum including the “Canoe Song”, “Ching a Ring Chaw” and “Shoe Fly.”
In a letter to families, the school’s Superintendent, Kevin McGowan, wrote, “This wasn’t “liberalism gone amok” or “cancel culture at its finest” as some have suggested. Nobody has said you shouldn’t sing “Jingle Bells” or ever in any way suggested that to your children.”
In the letter, McGowan said the song was first performed in minstrel shows where white actors performed in blackface.
According to Boston University professor Kyna Hamill, who researched the song’s origins for a 2017 article: “The legacy of ‘Jingle Bells’ is, as we shall see, a prime example of a common misreading of much popular music from the nineteenth century in which its blackface and racist origins have been subtly and systematically removed from its history.”
District officials also noted the song’s close ties to the Christmas holiday saying it “was not likely a song that we would have wanted as part of the school curriculum in the first place.”
McGowan added that pushback suggesting the decision was used to indoctrinate children doesn’t make sense either.
“The teachers have never taught about the song in any way when it was being used then or in the midst of deciding not to use it,” he said. “It is as simple as this, we are using different songs, and we are not teaching about their history at this level. Nobody is discussing politics about the song or anything regarding its history with students.”
In his final comments, McGowan said, “If many, many songs are available to accomplish the same objective, then why wouldn’t we use those songs? I think our teachers answered that question very thoughtfully and I’m proud of their work,” McGowan said.