There was no controversy over Christmas music at York Prep until its director created one

December 4, 2013 

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Now that Thanksgiving has passed and the full court press of the Christmas shopping season is underway, customers in many stores can expect to hear Christmas carols like “Joy to the World” and “O Come All Ye Faithful” playing in the background.

For many people, it will be a welcome reminder of the season and a mood-setting bonus of taking part in the gift-buying ritual. Others, particularly those with no connection to Christmas, will likely tune it out. Considering that increasing numbers of people always wear their earbuds connecting them to personally selected audio, Christmas music in stores will be overlooked entirely. Will some people be offended by the pointedly Christian holiday music? Probably, but they have the option of walking out of a store that plays music they find objectionable.

By and large, however, most of us accept that ‘Christmas carols are here to stay. They are the soundtrack of the season in the U.S. and other mostly Christian nations, like Canada and the U.K. For some reason, though, the season seems to now include an annual Christmas carol controversy. Typically it’s about an objection by a parent or student to a school’s planned Christmas-themed music program. When those objections are raised, it’s important for the dissenter to get a fair hearing, and often they are placated with the inclusion of music that references other religions or purely secular tunes.

The recent dust up over songs planned for a holiday concert at York Preparatory Academy is another matter entirely.

According to a recent report by our sister paper The Herald, York Prep Managing Director Clay Eaton told students that officials would have to consider removing Christmas carols from the program out fear of a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union. A public meeting was held and after no one made an objection to students playing “Visit from St. Nicholas,” “Sleigh Ride,” and two medleys that include “Joy to the World” and “O Come All Ye Faithful,” Eaton announced the show would go on as planned.

The problem is, there’s no evidence the ACLU planned a lawsuit or that York Preparatory Academy, a public charter school, was even on the organization’s radar. Later, Eaton told The Herald he saw a press release from the ACLU “a year or year and a half ago” stating its position against Christmas carols in public schools.

Talk about a solution in search of a problem.

It’s anyone’s guess what motivated Eaton to create a controversy out of thin air. Perhaps he thought he was preempting the challenge he expected to come or blindly followed misinformation he was fed. Anyway you look at, this was an irresponsible act by someone in a position of authority, and Eaton deserves to be called out for it.

Certainly this is a clear case of demagoguery and it has no place in education, particularly in a public school.

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