Political asides and Gospel Choirs
aebrownstein at UCDAVIS.EDU
Tue Nov 26 08:34:25 PST 2002
There are two problems with a Gospel choir.
1. Choirs do not simply study music, they sing it. When a prayer is set to
music and sung, it does not stop being a prayer and singing it still may
involve a religious experience for those whose faith is expressed and a
problematic experience for those whose faith is inconsistent with the
song's message. If the congregation in a the church sang these songs, the
religious element would be transparent and pervasive. When a high school
choir is invited to the church to perform the same songs, it is hard for me
to accept that what occurs is an academic exercise limited to the artistic
and cultural aspects of the music.
2. While Gospel music may certainly be studied and even performed by a high
school choir that studies and performs a variety of music, here we have an
exclusively Gospel Choir. Suppose a high school was fortunate enough to
teach philosophy to its students and had three electives. Logical
Positivism, Utilitarianism, and Protestant Theology. At least in my
judgement, that curriculum raises questions.
As to using multiculturalism to shield what would otherwise be religious
favoritism, see my earlier post on the difficulties with such an approach.
Moreover, this is a fairly limited form of diversity since it appears that
the schools are only trying to accommodate African-Americans and do nothing
at least with regard to music for children of other racial or ethnic
groups. One of the Court's concerns about affirmative action programs was
that it could be used to help just one group at the expense of other
similarly situated or almost similarly situated groups. The same kind of
argument might be made here.
Visiting at UNSW
At 09:26 AM 11/25/2002 -0800, you wrote:
>Eugene makes a good point, and I am sorry if my little
>"aside" seemed too acerbic.
>Actually, my aside was not merely designed to be
>funny. There is an important point there too, no?
>Normally, the left would be *very* supportive of a
>public school program that was designed to advance the
>cause of diversity or multiculturalism. Indeed, some
>might even argue that there is a compelling interest
>in advancing diversity and multiculturalism in the
>public schools, and that we *all* benefit from being
>exposed to issues and art forms of other groups and
>The fact that this program concerns a "Gospel Choir"
>does not affect its secular value as a part of
>diversity and multiculturalism in the curriculum. So
>long as the choir director is careful to focus on the
>artistic and cultural aspects of the program, and to
>avoid any endorsement of the truth of the lyrical
>content, the EC should not be an obstacle to what is
>otherwise a compellingly important part of a diverse
>public school curriculum. No?
>You can hate the water and still enjoy singing "Row,
>Row, Row Your Boat." No?
>"Do you not think an angel rides in the whirlwind and directs the storm."
> --President George W. Bush (quoting John Page)
>"When the Round Table is broken every man must follow Galahad or Mordred;
>middle things are gone." -C.S. Lewis
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