Victorian Government bans Christmas carols in schools

Victoria’s public schools are the frontline in the war on Christmas.

Please send the Minister for Education, James Merlino a protest email now at james.merlino@parliament.vic.gov.au

In an extraordinary decision of the Andrews government, Education Minister James Merlino issued a diktat to state government schools that has the effect of banning Christmas carols.

You may need to read that sentence one more time.

In an attempt to secularise public schools, a directive was issued last month to the principal of every Victorian public school. These new rules restrict the way in which teachers, parents and volunteers talk about religious ideas in our state schools. The most shocking aspect of the rules is that the teaching and singing of traditional Christmas carols will now be banished from the classroom.

“Praise music”, defined as “any type of music that glorifies God or a particular religious figure or deity” will be banned from music classes beginning in January. This is the last year parents will be allowed to volunteer their lunchtimes to teach kids Christmas carols for the end-of-year concert.

Most children aren’t even aware there’s a religious dimension to Christmas carols. It’s Christmas, and singing carols is just what people do. Silent Night has taken on its own significance beyond anything that may be characterised by some government bureaucrat as “praise music”. Christmas carols now form a unique genre of music, and removing them from schools has the same effect banning any other genre of music would have; it ignores an important part of the complex tapestry of musical history.

In fact, the motivation behind a ban on Christmas carols today is remarkably similar to that which parents and teachers of children growing up in the 1950s and 60s shared in relation to rock ’n’ roll. Sixty years ago, older generations worried Elvis Presley and Chuck Berry would lead a generation to juvenile delinquency. Today, the concern is that Christmas carols may lead to alarming ideas about religion and the meaning of Christmas. Christmas carols are the new subversive influence on youth that parents and teachers should be concerned about — a nonsense idea ironically given life by the fact the elite are attempting to ban them.

Of course, the government hasn’t banned all Christmas carols, just those that refer to God. So while drab, contemporary Christmas songs such as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer will be spared, the traditional carols — those that drip with a rich Christmas spirit — such as Once in Royal David’s City, Hark! The Herald Angels Sing and O Come, All Ye Faithful are verboten in Victorian public schools.

But it’s far bigger than all that. This is a cultural turning point. The Victorian government isn’t just banning Christmas carols; this is an attempt to strip away the meaning of Christmas. It’s an overt attack on one of the most significant events in the Christian calendar.

The decision goes to the heart of good education. Christmas, and all the ceremony and custom associated with it, has been a significant religious and cultural ritual for 1700 years. A ban on these traditions is a denial of our history. Suppressing aspects of the Christmas celebration denies a cultural heritage that has formed the basis of Western civilisation and that underpins our understanding of life and liberty.

A well-rounded education should include lessons on Christianity and its contribution to who we are today. We can’t expect the next generation to defend the values of Western civilisation if they don’t know what they are.

The inflammatory decision of the Andrews government to ban Christmas carols in Victoria’s public schools must be reversed immediately. Former Victorian attorney-general Robert Clark is to be congratulated for taking a stand on the issue. In parliament Clark called on the government to “withdraw this appalling edict and make clear that students at government schools are entitled to learn, sing and enjoy Christmas carols as they have for generations”. In the meantime, and while I’m still able to say it — merry Christmas!

Simon Breheny is director of the legal rights project at the Institute of Public Affairs.

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