In this column I wish to make some comments around the government’s changes to the singing of Christmas Carols in primary schools and the uncertainty that remains relating to this matter.
In the past six months it would be the topic I have received the most feedback on.
Last year the State Government announced restrictions on the singing of Christmas Carols in Primary schools. At the time many media reports referred to it as a “ban”, while the Minister said publicly it was not a ban. Little wonder there was, and remains, a level of confusion.
It has been widely reported the issue is around what is referred to by this Government as “praise music” where the teaching and singing of some carols is allowed, but not “praise music”.
To better explain, under this scenario, old favourites like Silent Night, Good King Wenceslas, Hark The Herald Angels Sing etc. are considered “praise music” as they refer to religious figures - but Jingle Bells, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, or Mariah Carey's All I Want For Christmas Is You, are fine because they focus on the non-religious aspects of Christmas.
If this is the case, I believe it is political correctness gone mad. Although a few in the community have expressed an alternate view in discussions with me, on the feedback I have received it is a topic that has clearly raised the ire of many.
My view is that most primary school aged children aren’t even aware there’s a religious dimension to Christmas carols. It’s Christmas, and singing carols is just what we do and have always done and this includes the “praise music” carols listed above.
A number also teach about respect and kindness, something we can all do with a regular dose of.
I have had several non-religious people commenting how ridiculous they believe this is, as they are aware it is an Australian tradition at school concerts and the like. They see this as more an issue of tradition rather than religion.
To try and get a direct answer from the Minister to clarify what the situation is, I lodged two questions on notice in parliament on February 9, which read:
(1) In a classroom containing only the teaching staff and students in curriculum time, can teachers allow students to sing traditional carols/hymns containing references to Jesus Christ, such as Away in a Manger.
(2) Can teachers teach traditional carols/hymns containing references to Jesus Christ to students in school curriculum time (in preparation for school concerts).
I thought this would clear it up. It would also allow me to accurately respond to the more than 1,200 who signed a petition opposing the changes.
The Minister, by Parliamentary guidelines, had one month to respond in writing (March 9), but here we are over three months later and after three reminders from the Speaker to provide an answer – he still has not.
It is not common for Ministers to ignore a directive from the Speaker once, three times is almost unheard of. This would indicate to me, he is unsure himself.
Hopefully we will receive an answer soon that clarifies this matter once and for all.
May 13, 2016