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‘We’re all amazing’
The “wokeness” debate stops the music in Wisconsin, but not everywhere
Apr. 2, 2023 6:00 am
My granddaughter and her friends were excited to show off their skills at a recent kindergarten concert, banging on different percussion instruments, dancing, singing and chanting together:
“We’re the same.”
“We’re all amazing.”
The performance was based on the Sesame Street book, “We’re Different, We’re the Same.”
Another example of wokeness run rampant, coddling kids so that they never know that the competitive game of life has winners and losers, and that some of them will be losers. At least, that’s what some adults would argue. Those arguing deeper would fear an imagined slippery slope of indoctrination toward telling all the little boys and girls that they should be something other than little boys and girls.
It’s the kind of fear that put the Linn-Mar school district in a spotlight last year because of its policies for protecting transgender students from discrimination. But, I’m getting ahead here. Back to grade school.
The fear thrives a state away, in Wisconsin’s Waukesha School District, where school officials in the western Milwaukee suburb told Heyer Elementary teachers and students they could not sing at their spring program a Miley Cyrus-Dolly Parton song called “Rainbowland.” The reason administrators at the school, whose website carries the slogan “We Can Unite The World” in English and Spanish, cite is that the song is too controversial, a Milwaukee television station first reported before the story went viral nationally.
Good golly, Miss Dolly and Miley, who co-wrote the lyrics.
Their potentially “offending” (those are air quotes) words tell a story of a place where people can be who they want to be, smile, make a difference in this world and stand up to hate with our different colors. “I know there's gotta’ be a greater plan,” the chorus states, in part. “We are rainbows, me and you. Every color, every hue. Let's shine through. Together, we can start livin' in a Rainbowland.”
The first-graders who had been practicing the song loved it, the Milwaukee news report said. But the school district’s superintendent determined that the lyrics fit a school policy of guarding against a controversial issue that may provoke intense public argument.
He isn’t wrong about the potential for intense argument. “Way more coddling taking place in this era than ever before! Kids more fragile than ever before, wonder why,” reads a recent comment about teaching kids, in general, not the Wisconsin incident. The comment is on that leveler of playing fields, Twitter, where sincerity is different but tweets can look the same and carry the perception that all are wonderful.
Another tweet: “Woke ideology in our schools has to stop before it’s too late.” That one is from a presidential candidate who has started to pop up in Iowa, Republican Nikki Haley.
So it is that lyrics like these provoke intense public argument: “Let's all dig down deep inside, brush the judgment and fear aside, make wrong things right.”
Yes, kids have different abilities and achieve at different levels. Moreover, winning and losing exist, and losing teaches good lessons to those who learn from them. Been there.
But losing and being a loser are two different things. Surely, teaching kindergartners and first-graders — and proving to them when they are teenagers and adults — that we have differences, likenesses and are wonderful isn’t a bad thing. Kids in kindergarten and first grade are not losers.
As I write this, yet another school shooting is happening. This time, it is at a private Christian school in Nashville. More dead kids at an elementary school. Now, there’s a problem in our schools — public and private, rural and urban — worth tackling.
“We’re the same.”
“We’re all amazing.”
I hope my granddaughter and her friends get the chance to believe these words as they grow up.
Lyle Muller is a retired Iowa journalist and former Gazette editor serving as professional adviser at Grinnell College’s Scarlet & Black student-run newspaper.
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