Musical Darwinism in Missoula, Montana

Aaron Flint posted on December 14, 2012 08:26 :: 817 Views

The musical Darwinists are back in the anti-Christmas spirit, this time in Missoula, Montana as a letter allegedly written by concerned parents was sent to school administrators complaining about the school Christmas program.  

Betsy Cohen has the story:  

A group of parents at Chief Charlo Elementary School are so upset over the selection of songs for the school’s holiday music program they are considering legal counsel.

“With many of the children in our neighborhood up here being Jewish and Buddhist, as well as a few Muslim and atheist students, we were assured that this year it would be a secular program,” said the letter, which was signed by “concerned parents” but listed no individual names.

Tim Tharp, Superintendent of Schools in Sunburst, Montana offered this great response to the story:

My wife is a music teacher and I and my kids are all musicians; plus I have just a bit of experience in dealing with this topic as my wife has taught music in Whitehall, Flaxville, Outlook, Brady, Great Falls, and now Sunburst.  The issue of use of sacred music in school has been fought in the courts many times.  What it comes down to is that a great deal of the quality instructional music that provides an opportunity to learn musicianship IS historically sacred.  The secular music that is popular is so easy to sing that there is not much educationally to be learned by performing such music.  Frosty the Snowman is not arranged in four-part harmony with key-signature changes that force a musician to pay attention to what they are performing.

I looked through the list of songs performed at the K-3 and 4-5 programs and I agree with Mr. Combs, I find them to be SIGNIFICANTLY secular.  In fact, it is WAY more secular than anything that you might see in one of our Class B or C schools in the state.

Furthermore, I believe that anonymous letters should go directly to the shredder.  And a letter from a group of ‘concerned parents’ who are ‘talking to legal council’ should probably take the time to hit F7 to spell check their letter so that it is addressed to the Superintendent before they contact legal counsel.  Correct spelling plus a few more correctly capitalized words might give the letter a little more credibility.

For the record, the school also included a Hanukkah song in the program.  I doubt it was this secular version:


Chrissie Tharp

Friday, December 14, 2012 1:17 PM

My husband makes some valid points! Let me add another thought…
If Jewish students are required to sing Christian songs, and this upsets them; then isn’t the opposite also true? Isn’t it unfair to ask a Christian music teacher to teach Jewish, Buddhist or Muslim songs?

I have found that doing a blend of all types of music is most successful in these situations. A formula that I have used in many schools is:

One Sacred
One Hannukah (or other religion)
One Snowy
One Funny/Cute
One Reflective

Fortunately, I am in a district where I can select the music that will accomplish my main objective–to teach the children music, not appeal to every member of the audience!

Sunday, December 16, 2012 5:27 PM

Okay, Aaron – the veil is lifted. No doubt you are also a fan of “Ode To My Car” (by Adam Sandler). I get the giggles just thinking about it, because it perfectly describes the first three cars of my adolescence!

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