Politics rocks the cradleJade Bilowol
March 17, 2006
This article from : The Associated Press
Baa Baa Black, whoops sorry, Rainbow Sheep, have you any wool?
As for Snow White, she, or maybe even he, is going solo. The seven dwarfs have been dropped from the title.
In these days of heady anti-discrimination and equal opportunity, centuries-old nursery rhymes and fairytales are being rewritten to avoid causing offence or frightening children.
There's a Little Girl Green to match Little Boy Blue as well as Joe Peep to rival Bo.
Even Mother Goose is getting a taste of equal opportunity, being balanced out by Father Gander.
Meanwhile, all the king's horses and all the king's men now glue Humpty Dumpty together again.
But are the changes enabling an ever-increasing number of characters to finally live happily ever after?
Or have they fallen foul to fanatical political correctness?
British childcare centres and kindergartens have jumped on the politically correct bandwagon.
"We have taken the equal opportunities approach approach to everything we do. We are following stringent equal opportunities rules," Stuart Chamberlain, manager of the Family Centre in
Abingdon and the Sure Start centre in Oxfordshire, has told British media. "This is fairly standard across nurseries. No one should feel pointed out because of their race, gender or anything else."
And Australia is not immune to the trend. "A lot of people don't use nursery rhymes now for that reason," admits advocacy group Early
Childhood Australia's president Judy Radich.
However, it seems the Aussies are more reluctant to follow what she deemed Britain's radical lead.
Ms Radich, who operates the Cooloon Children's centre on the Tweed in northern NSW - which still uses unaltered nursery rhymes - says they should be left alone. "I don't think a whole generation of children have grown up disturbed by Humpty Dumpty not being glued up again," Ms Radich says. "There has to be a balance in everything. "I think adults read into things that children don't ... it's up to adults to foster awareness but I don't think changing nursery rhymes is going to achieve that."
A more effective approach to promoting acceptance was for adults to directly talk to children, she insists. "When children notice something different adults should acknowledge it and talk about it," Ms Radich says. "When the child makes a comment in the supermarket about a person with one leg, it's better to acknowledge it than pretend it doesn't happen.
"Kids see things as they are and it's up to adults to foster awareness." And for some centres choosing to ditch nursery rhymes, Ms Radich says they offer children fun learning benefits such as repetition and rhythm. "When you were young and learnt them, they were just fun," she says.
Early Childhood Teachers Association president Toni Michael refuses to weigh into the debate but says there are centres for and against changing nursery rhymes. "It is up to the individual centre," Ms Michaels says. "Each has their own philosophy."
Boni Robertson, an associate professor with Griffith University's Indigenous Gumurrii Centre in Brisbane, says she can't even see why Baa Baa Black Sheep is a racial slur, deeming the change "nonsensical". "I never thought of it because there are black sheep - it's never been equated to a person of colour," she says. "For goodness sake we sing, 'have you any wool?' not 'have you any skin?' "Are we going to have children growing up thinking we have sheep out there that are rainbow-coloured? "And when they see a knitted jumper with more than one colour will they think it came from the rainbow sheep?"
Prof Robertson says she respects for all walks of life, but the changes were going too far, ultimately damaging the politically correct cause. "You have to maintain a certain element of logic and intelligence when you are talking about political correctness," she says. "If you start taking it to the extreme, the original sincere intention of getting people to be a little more sensitive in the presence of others can often be negated, even destroyed, by taking something to the extreme."
Brisbane-based mother-of-five Kerryn Brown, whose children range from four to 22 years of age, says: "We've all grown up with them, it's a bit late to change them now".
"It's unbelievable - they never hurt anybody," Ms Brown says.
"My youngest is four and he is going through that now and I'm not going to change any of the nursery rhymes. "How come they are changing the dwarfs and not Snow White's title to Snow Black anyhow?"