Baa Baa ‘Rainbow’ Sheep
The myth: Teachers have been banned from singing ‘Baa Baa Black Sheep’ in schools because it has been deemed racist towards black people.
The truth: A couple of nurseries in Oxfordshire decided to make the song longer and more stimulating for children by replacing ‘black’ with a range of other adjectives.
This is one of the biggest ‘PC Gone Mad’ urban myths that has spread across the country and the world. A book entitled ‘Baa Baa Rainbow Sheep: The Charge of the PC Brigade‘ was even published based on this incident. Of course, had this ban have actually happened, it would have been a very pointless and hysterical matter indeed. But it didn’t happen at all.
Here is the story that the BBC posted on Tuesday, 7 March 2006:
Pre-school children attending two nurseries in Oxfordshire are being taught a new version of Baa Baa Black Sheep – Baa Baa Rainbow Sheep.
Critics say altering the words of the traditional nursery rhyme is an example of political correctness gone too far.
But the charity running the nurseries, Parents and Children Together (Pact), said the move was educational, not motivated by racial concerns.
Pact said children were encouraged to use a wide range of words in songs.
“Pact has established that children sing a variety of descriptive words in the nursery rhyme to turn the song into an action rhyme,” the charity said in a statement.
“They sing happy, sad, bouncing, hopping, pink, blue, black and white sheep etc and they also exchange boy and girl at the end of the rhyme.
“This encourages the children to extend their vocabulary and use up some energy.”
While the words have been altered at two Oxfordshire nurseries – the Abingdon Family Centre and the Sure Start Centre in Sutton Courtenay – other nurseries in the area have not taken such steps.
“We sing Baa Baa Black Sheep and Baa Baa White Sheep because that’s reality, that’s what the children see in the fields and it encourages them to look around them,” said Jill Edge, from the Sunshine Centre in Banbury, north Oxfordshire.
“Realistically, they are not going to see rainbow sheep in the fields. There are much better ways of addressing these issues.”
In 2000, a warning that the nursery rhyme Baa Baa black sheep should not be taught in schools because it was “racially offensive” was scrapped.
The guidelines by education chiefs at Birmingham City Council were dropped after black parents condemned the advice as ridiculous.
So, if it is that important to you, then you can by all means sing ‘Baa Baa Black Sheep’ to children without being punished by a stupidly imposed law. Any guidelines in schools or nurserys have been self-imposed, perhaps due to the Chinese Whispers caused by articles such as this, from the Daily Mail on the 8 March 2006:
It Has been a children’s favourite for hundreds of years.
But ‘Baa Baa Black Sheep’ has again fallen victim to the drive for political correctness.
Nursery school children are being taught to sing ‘Baa Baa Rainbow Sheep’ instead of the traditional rhyme.
Teachers at two centres were told to change the words to promote ‘equal opportunities’.
It is not the first time the rhyme has been altered – previous substitutes for black include ‘green’ and ‘happy’ sheep.
Stuart Chamberlain, of the Oxford Sure Start Centre in Sutton Courtenay, Oxfordshire, said: “Basically we have taken the equal opportunities approach to everything we do.
“This is fairly standard across nurseries. We are following stringent equal opportunities rules. No-one should feel pointed out because of their race, gender or anything else.”
Children at the Family Centre in nearby Abingdon are also taught the ‘PC’ version.
Mr Chamberlain said he could not explain why people singing or listening to the lyrics of the original version would be offended.
The origins of the famous rhyme have nothing to do with race.
Although the first publication of the nursery rhyme was in 1744, it probably dates back to the Middle Ages, possibly to the 13th Century, and relates to a tax imposed by the king on wool. One-third went to the local lord (the ‘master’), one-third to the church (referred to as the ‘dame’) and about a third was for the farmer (the ‘little boy who lives down the lane’).
Yesterday the Equal Opportunities Commission and the Commission for Racial Equality refused to comment on the revised rhyme.
But the move has been condemned by campaigners as another crazy example of ‘political correctness gone mad’. Nick Seaton of the Campaign for Real Education said: ‘This is a traditional children’s song and the reference to black sheep has nothing to do with black-skinned people.
“It’s a new Stalinist approach to good manners and respect.”
John Midgley, co-founder of the Campaign Against Political Correctness, said: “This is absolutely ridiculous. If they say it’s for equal opportunities then it’s counterproductive. It fails to understand the history of nursery rhymes which have enriched children’s lives down the generations.
“It’s a blatant example of political correctness and somebody ought to give the Sure Start Centre a good dose of common sense.”
In 1999 Birmingham City Council said the rhyme should not be taught in school because it was racially negative and could cause offence. Last year a number of nursery schools in western Scotland began singing ‘Baa Baa Happy Sheep’. And some children in London have also been taught ‘Baa Baa Green Sheep’. At least one other traditional rhyme has also been targeted.
Three years ago Mothercanre sold cassette tapes and CDs with a new version of Humpty Dumpty in which there was a happy ending.
In the PC version, Humpty Dumpty was able to ‘count to ten and get up again’.