Over the last few days there have been developments on the issue of Christmas songs in Victorian State Schools. Although, perhaps ‘side-step’ or ‘entanglement’ is a better description than development!
This week, the Geelong Advertiser’s front page headline is, ‘Don’t Take Our Carols. Religious Xmas songs could be banned at schools, claims Katos”
On December 12, former Attorney General and current member for Box Hill, Robert Clark, wrote this.
“It’s hard to believe it could happen, but this year’s school Christmas concerts may be the last at which children are allowed to sing traditional carols, under new State government rules quietly introduced last month.
Well known and much loved Christmas carols like Silent Night, Away in the Manger and Come All Ye Faithful are all caught by the new bans.
The Education Department has instructed government school principals that parent volunteers or outside music instructors are not allowed to teach carols or other “praise music” to students unless it is “common societally recognised music” (whatever that means).
As well, teachers will only be allowed to teach carols if it is part of “general religious instruction”.
The new rules have already caused at least one school to decide to remove traditional carols from their end of year performance, before reversing the decision after parent protest.
Next year, many more schools are likely to decide it is easier to scrap Christmas carols altogether rather than try to work out whether or when they are allowed to have them under the new rules.
It’s not clear whether these new rules are part of a deliberate move to drive out Christmas carols from schools, or the unintended consequences of bureaucratic incompetence and bad drafting.
Either way, the government must withdraw these new rules and allow students at government schools to learn, sing and enjoy Christmas carols as they have for generations.”
Member for Mildura, Peter Crisp, is under the same impression and yesterday began a petition asking for Daniel Andrews to reverse his decision in banning Christian carols from our schools
Education Minister, James Merlino, has today released this response,
“You may have heard ridiculous claims from Coalition MPs that we have banned Christmas carols in schools. That is just untrue.
To be absolutely clear, traditional Christmas carols have been and will continue to be sung at our government schools (including my girls’ school).
These lies are creating unnecessary angst within the community and those spreading this misinformation should be ashamed.
Don’t let the grinches get you down. I hope you all enjoy singing your favourite carols with family and friends this Christmas…I know I will!”
I am pleased to hear Mr Merlino repudiating the claims being made by what is now a growing number of Victorian MPs. However if the new policy is so clear, why are the media continuing to suggest that songs referencing Jesus and God will be prohibited? Are concerned MPs simply playing politics with this issue or is their concern legitimate, and if so, what is the basis for their concerns except for a Government directive which is ambiguous?
We all know that there are Christmas Carols and there are Christmas Carols. While most of us enjoy singing secular favourites about Santa, reindeer and snowmen, will ‘Away in a Manger’ and ‘The First Noel’ be permitted in our schools next year? I do not mean to sound disingenuous but clarity is lacking, and recent history gives Victorians reason to ask questions. After all, even now our schools can only sing verse 1 of ‘Away in a Manger’, such is the danger attached to singing its other verses!
I have asked Mr Merlino for clarification on this matter, and am waiting to hear back. I will be encouraged to hear a guaranteed ‘yes’ from the Minister.
For a State that alleges to celebrate diversity and freedom, it is sad to see us having this discussion, even school children singing Christmas songs about Jesus has become contentious, and perhaps to intolerable.
Shortly after publishing this post it came to my attention that I had misquoted James Merlino. I rectified the mistake immediately to ensure it is accurate. Apologies to anyone who read the misquote