The song is offensive. It's historical significance will not be lost nor dimished by removing it from the curriculum. Surely, other valuable songs exists that can be used to teach the call and response form.
I went through the formal request process with the School District to have a formal review. They did their review and they reported to me that music teachers in the city are free to use this song if they wish because
"This song is in reference to a time period in American history and is a work song which reflects the experience of workers during this time."
They cited a website that stated that the "singing moved the work along faster and made physical labor and drudgery a little easier to bear."
They also assured me that "Every effort is made to select music with text/lyrics that is not demeaning to any culture or race."
I responded by stating that slaves were not workers because workers get paid and had the freedom to either work or not work. Slaves did not have those freedoms and that their characterization of the institution of slavery in this manner was offensive.
I also asked for details about the "efforts" they made regarding this song.
The Oshkosh Area School District responded with this "We thank you for your concern and consider this curriculum matter to have been appropriately addressed and resolved. Thank you."
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