Singing Religion Back Into Public Schools

Withrow University Academy’s high school choir opened the Dec. 11 Cincinnati Board of Education meeting decked out in black robes and orange stoles bearing the name of their school. Accompanied by a pianist, the group seemed poised to present a holiday song, most likely about Christmas. The powerful voices belted out a Gospel song, instead:

“Faithful, faithful is our God…
He is faithful…
By reaping the harvest of prophecy,
Take back what the devil stole from me
I rejoice today for I shall recover it all …
Holy, holy is our God …
He is holy
Jesus, Jesus is our God…”

Someone in the audience suggested the choir travel to schools to show off their talents, especially to boys, as a means to demonstrate that singing can be a source of accomplishment and academic scholarships.

What’s unclear is why a public school district is presenting God, Jesus and the devil as part of a program.

Human beings are social creatures, so craving a sense of connectedness and a spiritual life that extends beyond daily reality makes sense. That said, it doesn’t seem likely that a teenager, already facing immense peer pressure, would stand up to the rest of the group and to authority figures to say, “These lyrics make me uncomfortable. I don’t believe in this version of god.”

The sensitivity required for fully understanding and fostering inclusion and tolerance breaks down when a single religious focus is chosen. Respecting and appreciating all people could be more readily accomplished with a non-religious song. This isn’t about being politically correct or kowtowing to some sanitized version of reality — this is about embodying inclusion.

How are students supposed to learn that kind of tolerance with this kind of song as their showpiece?

— Margo Pierce

Explore posts in the same categories: Porkopolis

9 Comments on “Singing Religion Back Into Public Schools”

  1. Monica Says:

    Give me a break!! With all that is going in the city this is comment worthy? As an answer lets try. Having a gospel choir in an inner city predominently black school is not a bad thing and can in fact be a very good thing! In addition, black kids have learned a great deal of tolerance by the time they reach high school. They tolerate a school system which refuses to properly educate them about their own history. Black history for the most part is limited to February and even then its usually a vapor of what it should be. They tolerate a police force that continues to abuse its authority and violate their rights. They tolerate media that sends them a consistent message of medocrity. They tolerate racism at every level especially here in Cincinnati. If the writer is so concerned about our kids learning tolerance than maybe an article about the shocking lack of inclusion within the curriculum of the schools public and otherwise would be more appropriate. It would go much further in teaching tolerance to have black and white kids understand that black history is about more than Harriet Tubman and teh Undergroud Railroad!

  2. Exhausted Citizen Says:

    No. This shouldn’t even be a discussion. That’s the wrong song at the wrong time. I rather imagine, however, that Withrow teachers and some board members do not believe that Withrow students are sufficiently sophisticated to understand why it’s wrong. It’s all deeply depressing.

  3. The Dean Says:

    That’s right. Instead of focusing on God, they should have sung a gospel song about… uh… y’know… um…

  4. Neal Watzman Says:

    How is singing a gospel song about Jesus different than a Christmas song about the birth of Jesus?

    I think the point is about singing, and doing something meaningful. It’s not about the words at all, it’s about singing!

    By the way, I’m Jewish, and no, the song doesn’t offend me at all. I recently joined the Voices of Freedom Choir and we sing a lot of gospel songs. What a great way to bring joy!

  5. gerard Says:

    Agree with the first poster. Withrow University High is rated Excellent by the state and should be a model for the rest of CPS high schools. With those kind of results, and considering the other problems in this city, they can all don pope hats and parade down Madison avenue for all I care.

  6. Monica Says:

    As a parent of 2 Withrow graduates and 1 current students let me state that I warrant Exhausted has no idea of the level of sophistocation of the students of Withrow. What was that comment supposed to mean?

  7. ShayShay Says:

    Choir is a voluntary activity. I imagine the kids decided with their faculty adviser to sing that song. No biggie. They’re old enough to say if they don’t want to sing a religious song. And Silent Night, what I sang in almost every school event ever, is entirely about the birth of Christ.

  8. David Gallaher Says:

    Am I the only one who will say it?
    The solution to this conundrum or Catch-22 is to abolish public schools.

  9. Principal Says:

    It was wonderful choir, but an inappropriate song choice, not because it is religious—I see nothing wrong with public school choirs singing religious songs of all faiths, but because it is so very deity-focused, it narrows the likely appreciation of the audience. I doubt the audience would have been nearly as pleased if the song lyrics had included “Allah, he has reaped the prophecy, how great is he, Allah, who shall recover it all.”
    Are we really multicultural? There are many inspirational and even spiritual songs which are not so deity-focused as to offend at worst, or please only a narrow group. A public school choir doing a salute to many cultures would surely be very inspirational to many.
    Having said all that, it’s also the least of CPS’s problems. Withrow U. is a great program and the kids who sang and spoke were talented and articulate. Let’s all give the same volume of ink up for schools with no choir, or few other music or extra-curricular opportunities or participation. They’re not usually the ones giving presentations at the Board meetings.

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