"Racist" Baa Baa Black Sheep put out to pasture

By staff writers From: The Sunday Mail (Qld) February 27, 2011 6:26AM


BLACK sheep are on the endangered species list as some children in north Queensland learn to sing Baa Baa Rainbow Sheep.
The English nursery rhyme may have survived for 200-plus years but political correctness could finally put it out to pasture.

Some schools in Britain have banned the song for being racist, but Pelicans Innisfail Child Care allows children to sing about black sheep or rainbow sheep.

Director Pam McLaughlin said some teachers sang the changed lyrics, and some children already knew the changes.

"We just go with whatever the children want," Ms McLaughlin said.

"The kids are just singing and having fun. Some sing black sheep, some sing rainbow sheep. It's just a song.

"We don't have anything that says, 'You have to sing it this way'."

The BBC reported in 2000 that Birmingham City Council had banned the song for being racist. It was later overturned after a backlash from parents.

The council said it had obtained the guidelines, which stated: "The history behind the rhyme is very negative and also very offensive to black people, due to the fact that the rhyme originates from slavery".

Six years later in 2006, a nursery in Sutton Courtenay in Britain banned the nursery rhyme.

In other examples, the principal of a school in NSW last year adapted the lyrics from Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree so children would say how happy, rather than gay, his life must be.

In 2009 the Birmingham council took creative licence to change the ending of Humpty Dumpty from couldn't "put Humpty together again" to "made Humpty happy again".

Golliwog dolls have been taken off shelves because of racism concerns and passages have been removed from Enid Blyton books because of perceived homosexual undertones between Noddy and Big Ears.

Australian National University social psychologist Michael Platow said he doubted Baa Baa Black Sheep would teach racism.

"I don't know why a child would associate a black sheep with a black man," he said.

The Office of Early Childhood Education and Care associate director-General Zea Johnston said no direction had been given and centres were responsible for their own education programs.

Pelicans has indigenous and non-indigenous children, and recognises diversity. Children play with white dolls, darker-skinned dolls and dolls of both sexes.

Ms McLaughlin said she thought changing the lyrics was a bit confusing for children. "You can get a black sheep but you can't get a rainbow sheep."
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