Silent Night, Holy Night
A song for a WWI truce in 1914. A song which created a war of words in the 1970's and continues today.
All over the world tonight, people will be singing “Silent Night, Holy Night.” But will they even contemplate the deep-seated controversy of this song written 203 years ago? Probably not unless they are an educator, especially a choral director. The following is an excerpt from my book, Rescue the Teacher, Save the Child!
The Song That Started It All: The day I broke out in hives, believing the ACLU invaded my classroom preparing a brief to fire me, provided a comical outcome to my paranoia [see previous blog]. However, I am more prone to believe John Lennon’s definition: “Paranoia is just a heightened sense of awareness”. My decades of employment in the public school system witnessed a questioning of my classroom practices and on some occasions, the choice of repertoire. I achieved a “heightened sense of awareness” under the scrutiny of the new secular progressive flames which caused my inner flame to radiate less. The attempt to remove Christmas music began innocently enough with one of the world’s most favorite songs.
Imagine the final day of school, before a major winter break. [Oh let’s be real and call it Christmas.] The halls ring, filled with children singing holiday songs. An elementary music teacher leads the impromptu hallway concert. How could this innocent setting become the launch pad for removing Christmas songs from the public schools?
I would imagine our elementary music teacher looked at a holiday sing-around as an appropriate way to end the semester. Whether she chose the songs or allowed the students to choose did not matter. The students sang the song “Silent Night, Holy Night” and thus started the war on Christmas with a shot fired across the nation via an angry parent. I was warned about this case as a student teacher. Eventually the litigation made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court. The suit was filed by an atheist parent on behalf of his son. Take a moment and Google “Silent Night, Holy Night” and the U.S. Supreme Court. You will find six pages of different bans, lawsuits, court fights and arguments pro and con for the singing of this piece in the public schools. Ironic this one piece could be so controversial. During a WWI Christmas truce between the British and the Germans, both sides agreed to put down their arms during the singing of “Silent Night, Holy Night.” While this song brought about a truce in 1914, it started a war of words in the 1970’s and it continues today.
According to the National Association for Music Education: “the study and performance of religious music within an educational context is a vital and appropriate part of a comprehensive music education. The omission of sacred music from the school curriculum would result in an incomplete educational experience”. The association continues with their interpretation of the First Amendment: “The First Amendment does not forbid all mention of religion in the public schools; it prohibits the advancement or inhibition of religion by the state. A second clause in the First Amendment prohibits the infringement of religious beliefs. The public schools are not required to delete from the curriculum all materials that may offend any religious sensitivity.”
The chorales of J. S. Bach, the “Hallelujah Chorus” from George Frideric Handel’s Messiah, spirituals, and Ernest Bloch’s Sacred Service all have an important place in the development of a student’s musical understanding and knowledge. Each time I approached any Christian oriented song in class, I always gave students the option not to perform it. I recall one or two times where that did happen. One student volunteered to turn the pages for our accompanist. Another student quietly walked off the stage during the performance of the song in question, then returned for the remainder of the concert. I celebrated the rights of those students not to perform.
Teachable Moment: Before introducing any religious song, I always asked my middle, high school and collegiate students their interpretation of the Supreme Court rulings on public school students singing Christian content songs. Many stated it was illegal, a message often promoted by teachers too afraid to allow those songs performed in public. I explained a religious song may be legally sung in the public school classroom, as long as no one felt coerced to rehearse or perform it. Service men and women fought for the student’s right to withdraw from singing any questionable song.
The above is an example of my entire book. When sharing any teaching experience, I always followed it with a “teachable moment.” Awesome news: I was recently informed that a principal in Cleveland, Ohio made my book required reading for the entire staff. My life’s purpose, post teaching, is to give teachers tools to navigate the strange waters churned about by today’s secular progressives and woke mob influence in our public schools. But that is not my only charge. There are four points of view in my book: students, parents, teachers and administrators. It’s time for all of those points of view to walk in one another’s shoes for the good of our children and the welfare of our nation. Perhaps then we can truly achieve “all is calm, all is bright.”
TUNE IN SOON. Here’s a tease: It’s the new year so it’s time for the 4:41 Forgiveness Plan. If you are following my blog and podcast, you may have expected that subject today. As I await the arrival of Christmas Eve, I look forward to the singing of “Silent Night, Holy Night” with my son, daughter-in-law and three grandchildren. It takes me back to my childhood where this song was celebrated without consternation, when life and times were simpler. Perhaps not better as far as economic measurements, mean income and the ever worshipped internet. But it was a time of respect for each others’ views, religious observations and even politics.
PLEASE SHARE THIS LINK WITH ANY AND ALL . Read more of my thoughts at: rescuetheteacher.com. If you’re experiencing unfair practices in your teaching position, please reach out to me at rescuetheteacher @yahoo.com! Here is even a better idea: propose a book study of Rescue the Teacher, Save the Child! for your school district.