Few American children learn traditional children’s songs, such as “Old MacDonald” or “The Farmer in the Dell,” according to this Chicago Tribune column. Kids sing pop songs; teachers don’t bother with the “Hokey Pokey.”
“I listen to nothing but the top 40,” says Shawna Bramlett, age 7, of Tampa. “Eminem really speaks to me. Old music is for old people.”
The traditional songs of American childhood — folk tunes, nursery rhymes and even the national anthem — are disappearing, victims of pervasive pop culture and funding cuts that have nibbled away at arts education in elementary schools.
Among the endangered or lost: songs tied to periods of American history such as “My Darling Clementine” and “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad”; spirituals and songs with religious roots such as “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” and “Amazing Grace”; nursery rhymes and activity songs such as “Mary Had a Little Lamb” and “Hokey Pokey”; even patriotic songs such as “America the Beautiful” and “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
. . . But in a survey I conducted last spring, music teachers said songs that could be considered American children’s musical heritage often aren’t part of the public school curriculum. Among their comments: “My school is low socio-economic, so I teach only pop music.” “Our curriculum is multicultural. We do not teach songs of the American culture.” “These songs aren’t in my textbooks, so I don’t teach them.” “These songs aren’t appropriate for us. I teach in Hawaii, not in America.”
Can this really be true? Little kids are singing songs in school, whether the arts budget has been cut or not, and they’re not singing Eminem. Surely “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” has not dimmed in the minds of pre-schoolers and kindergarteners. Parents of young children, what do you think?