Sunday, December 20, 2015

Rudolf Revisited

Amidst the glories of our final few days of school, we found time for our annual Wrong Words Day. (For details of this marvelous event, see my entry on Dec. 7, 2011). The kids were in Kid Heaven singing about Batman’s bad odor, barbecued Barbies, poison ivy, dynamite and winter underwear. And the grown-ups in the room seemed to be having a pretty good time too.

When it comes down to it, there’s only about four Holiday songs with deliciously naughty words put together by kids at a certain point in history and passed down—Jingle Bells, We Three Kings, Joy to the World, Deck the Halls, with a two-word punch-line for Winter Wonderland and a few versions of The 12 Days of Christmas.

And then there’s Rudoph. Doesn’t quite qualify as a naughty word song, but it’s probably the first (along with Jingle Bells) that say, a five-year old would begin to sing with a twinkle in their eye and a sense of being initiated into a sophisticated kid culture humor. The delight is in the responses. In my day (up to around 10 years ago), it went something like this:

“Rudolph the Red-nosed reindeer (Reindeer!)
Had a very shiny nose (Like a light bulb!)
And if you ever saw it (Saw it!)
You would even say it glows. (Like a light bulb!)
All of the other reindeer. (Reindeer!)
Used to laugh and call him names (Like Stupid!)
They never let poor Rudolph (Rudoph!)
Join in any reindeer games. (Like Monopoly!)…

And so it goes until the final “He’ll go down in history” (Like Columbus!)

At least that’s my memory of it. But these days, there are two PC changes from the kid’s world. “Stupid” and been replaced by “Pinocchio” and “Columbus” by “George Washington.” And I say fine to both—especially Columbus. It’s always astounding that many still don’t know what a brutal terrorist old Chris was, so George Washington is a welcome substitute. But why stop there?

For example, Gandhi. His story had clear parallels to Rudolf's. He was ostracized and shunned for being different and having different points of view, but when the world was in darkness and it was hard to deliver gifts of kindness, he lit the way for Arjuna’s Chariot (the Hindu equivalent of Santa’s sleigh) to bring the goods. But of course, adults can never intervene in the organic world of kid’s culture— these things have their own dynamic and natural unfolding. But I think next year I’m going to start suggesting the change at my school and see if it catches on. Let’s see what happens 10 or 20 years down the line.

But if it catches, remember, you heard it here first.

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