Thursday, April 5, 2012

God, "The Family Shakespeare," and Stall Brook Elementary School

Protecting the tender minds of women and children from indelicate words and phrases is nothing new.

Thomas Bowdler published "The Family Shakespeare" a bit over two centuries back. It was an edition of Shakespeare's work - with the naughty bits cut out.

That was then, this is now. Here in America, the 'better sort' have no problem with exposing kids to Shakespeare. But the old impulse to keep kids from hearing 'indelicate' words is still there.

1. "[redacted] Bless the U.S.A."

"School Removes 'God' From Lee Greenwood Song"
Todd Starnes, Fox News Radio (April 5, 2012)

"Parents at a Massachusetts elementary school are furious after educators first removed the word 'God' from the popular Lee Greenwood song, 'God Bless the U.S.A.' and then pulled the song all together from an upcoming concert.

"Fox 25 in Boston is reporting that children at Stall Brook Elementary School in Bellingham were told to sing, 'We love the U.S.A.' instead of 'God Bless the U.S.A.'..."
I suppose someone could have a conniption over the school forcing children to express love for America. Or the wanton disregard for trees represented by the school's library. Folks can have odd hangups:Let's see how this elementary school reacted, when parents complained; and what the songwriter had to say.

Our Song, or No Songs at All

"...After parents started complaining, school officials removed the song from the school assembly concert. The school's principal released a statement to Fox 25 stating they hope to 'maintain the focus on the original objective of sharing students' knowledge of the U.S. States, and because of logistics, will not include any songs.'

"Greenwood released a statement to Fox News condemning the school's actions.

" 'The most important word in the whole piece of music is the word God, which is also in the title 'God Bless The USA,' Greenwood said. 'Maybe the school should have asked the parents their thoughts before changing the lyrics to the song. They could have even asked the writer of the song, which I of course, would have said you can't change the lyrics at all or any part of the song.'..."
(Todd Starnes, Fox News Radio)
Maybe I'm misinterpreting this, but telling parents that the program "will not include any songs" sounds a bit like a child's "I'm taking my ball and going home" response to frustration.

Good Intentions, Censorship, and Sex

I'm pretty sure that Thomas Bowdler meant well. I've done the same sort of thing myself, hitting the mute button during some commercials.

I even - once - had a friendly chat with a local movie theater owner, over the content of a particularly repugnant film.1

But I'm not an editor who became famous for deciding that some families didn't have a father who was "a sufficiently 'circumspect and judicious reader' to accomplish this expurgation himself:"2
"Bowdlerize
"edit by omitting or modifying parts considered indelicate"
(Princeton's WordNet)
Like I've said before, it seems that America's dominant culture views religion the way Victorian ladies presumably saw sex: one knows that it happens, but decent people ignore such things. (March 5, 2011)

I don't think America's kids benefit from having the word "God" expurgated from their school activities. I'm one of those folks who have religious beliefs, and take them seriously: which may not mean what you've been told it does. America's dominant culture has some - remarkable - assumptions about folks like me.

The cultural values I think are behind that Massachusetts school's decisions are part of the reason that my kids have been home schooled from grade 7 up. Their choice. And that's another topic.

Related posts:
1 We agreed that the content was repugnant: and that contractual obligations can be awkward. The film was part of a package from his distributor: and he had to show all of them. The theater owner could, I suppose, have closed the theater. I think that would have been an extreme measure, and a loss to the community. Finding another distributor might have been an option. But that takes time: and I doubt that a small-town movie theater has a great many affordable options.

2 Arthur Brown, via Wikipedia

2 comments:

nothingprofound said...

It is silly and certainly ironic how "God" has become a dirty word. One might almost call it poetic justice, though I'm totally opposed to the practice.

Brian Gill said...

nothingprofound,

I think "silly" is a very good way to describe much of what's happened in American culture. I think change for the better is happening.

Thanks for taking time to comment.

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