Thursday September 14, 2006
LONDON LOG BY CHOI TUCK WO
AT FIRST glance, it looks outrageously out of place. This is no child’s play though; it has been a children’s favourite for hundreds of years. Yet the deeper one delves into it, the murkier it gets.
Yes, Baa Baa Black Sheep has again fallen victim to what some see as Britain’s increasing drive for political correctness. Terrifying though the prospect may be, some nursery children are being taught to sing “Baa Baa Rainbow Sheep” instead of the traditional rhyme.
Teachers at two centres have been told to change the words to promote what their superiors described as equal opportunities.
Indeed, this is not the first time the rhyme has been altered – previous substitutes for black include “green” and “happy” sheep.
Last year, a number of nursery schools in western Scotland sang the “happy” version while some children in London did the “green” one, much to the chagrin of their parents.
What drove some bright sparks to think the sheep were unhappy or that they needed to be environmentally friendly to justify the change beggars belief.
This time around, the Sure Start Centre in Oxford went a step further – it replaces “black” with “rainbow” sheep to avoid causing offence to anyone. A catchy sound bite perhaps. But dangerous drivel all the same.
The powers-that-be could have felt the rainbow colours would be the safest since they were not linked to any particular community and were more appealing to children. But the contention that no one should feel pointed out because of their race, gender or anything else hardly holds water.
Beyond that, the nursery rhyme is a traditional children’s favourite and the reference to black sheep has nothing to do with black-skinned people. Thus awkward attempts by anybody to claim the moral high ground appear to have taken many past a tipping point.
Many parents, in particular, found it difficult to comprehend why anybody singing or listening to the lyrics of the original version would feel offended. After all, the origins of the age-old rhyme had nothing to do with race.
Although the first publication of the nursery rhyme was in 1744, it probably dates back to the Middle Ages, possibly in the 13th century.
As the story goes, the rhyme relates to a tax imposed by the king on wool, one-third of which went to the local lord (the master), another to the church (referred to as the dame) and the last third was for the farmer (the little boy who lives down the lane).
John Midgley, co-founder of the Campaign Against Political Correctness, slammed any attempt to change the rhyme as ridiculous and counter-productive. In fact, educational centres should make a greater effort to understand the history of nursery rhymes that have enriched the lives of children over the generations.
Above all, a massive dose of common sense should prevail over this issue, otherwise the children may end up thoroughly confused. And what on earth is a rainbow sheep anyway?link