Lee Greenwood, Justin Bieber, and a Matter of Taste

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The story of how the principal of PS 90 in Brooklyn, Greta Hawkins, banned the five year-olds from singing “God Bless the USA” by Lee Greenwood at their kindergarten “graduation ceremony” has generated the kind of blowing back and forth that is typical of such incidents, and naturally everyone has a right to an opinion.

According to the NY Post, five classes spent months learning the song. The principal reportedly nixed it so as “not to offend other cultures.” Yet, the nicest thing I read in connection with this whole story—doubtless the only nice thing—is what’s conveyed in this snippet:

“A lot of people fought to move to America to live freely, so that song should be sung with a whole lot of pride,” said mom Luz Lozada, whose son, Daniel, is in kindergarten.

The song has been sung at previous school events. Last year’s fifth-graders, including another Lozada child, performed it at graduation.

“Everybody applauded and whistled,” the mom said. “They gave it a standing ovation.”

Parents — many immigrants from Pakistan, Mexico and Ecuador — “love it,” Lozada said.

A teacher agreed: “It makes them a little goosebumpy and teary-eyed. I’ve never come across anyone who felt it insulted their culture.”

The recent immigrants apparently do not labor under the burdens of political correctness and hyper-sensitivity.

The poor five year-olds were also being trained to sing the Justin Bieber song “Baby,” with lines like: “Are we an item? Girl, quit playing.” That has since been nixed as well.

Now, I don’t have kids. But if I did, I have to be honest: I would be pretty dismayed to have my five-year-old being tutored in school to sing either one of these songs.

I appreciate the sentiments of Lee Greenwood’s song (and I love plenty of country music) but, sentiments aside, the song is just not a great composition in my book. I don’t mind that other people enjoy it, but it just doesn’t do it for me.

If little kids are to be trained to sing a patriotic song, are we so lacking in songs of established pedigree and worth? “God Bless America.” “My Country ‘Tis of Thee.” “America the Beautiful.” If my five-year-old is going to be spending months with a music teacher learning a song, I’d really prefer it to be a song on that level, with all due respect to Lee Greenwood.

As for Justin Bieber and “Baby”: well, spare me. Whoever it was who had the idea in the first place that five-year-olds should be taught to sing this kind of thing ought to be banished from ever working with children again in the civilized world. It brings up the whole issue of how young children are exposed to all of this hormone-laden dreck before they even have the hormones to be able to relate to it. There is plenty of great music out there, even some contemporary stuff, but the kids want to listen to what the other kids are listening to, and it must be so hard for parents to fight it. I don’t know what I’d do if I had young children today; I’d probably unplug everything, pull down the blinds, and just force them to read literary classics by candlelight until they reached the age of 18 and ran screaming from the house.


So, putting aside the political issues, on grounds of taste and good judgment alone, what’s going on in music class at PS 90 in Coney Island is rather horrifying. A parent ought to be able to expect that schools will attempt to educate and elevate rather than just plumping for the easiest and lowest common denominator. Yet at the same time I know very well that what’s going on at this Brooklyn public school is quite typical.

And the other sadly typical but still horrifying thing about this story is that five-year-olds are having a “graduation ceremony” at all.

For crying out loud. Give them each a lollipop and let’s get on with real life.

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