Nursery Rhymes

One of the presents the kids received on their Nana’s most recent visits was a book of nursery rhymes with an accompanying CD.

In an effort to a) increase the kids’ musical repertoire so I don’t have to listen to/sing the alphabet song all day, b) introduce music rather than the tv as the preferred source of background noise if they decide they need that, and c) introduce the idea that songs have actual words and meanings, such as the ones that can be read in the book, I played the CD the other day while singing along and reading the book.

This worked well, perhaps better than I had hoped. And now we listen to the CD multiple times every day (and haven’t watched any DVDs all week, yay!). Even better, the big guy sits down with the book, and turns the pages as the different songs come on, and he’s even started picking out some phrases from each song.

Of course, those are all good things (well, except for hearing the whole CD 8 times a day). So what’s the problem? I’m just bothered by one of the song selections on this disc.

Now, I know that most nursery rhymes were originally designed as gossipy, snarky jokes on people in high places. Yeah, seriously, some of them tell some pretty sordid tales. But, because they are children’s songs, the imagery used is generally childish, whimsical, and harmless.

In other words, your kid can easily believe that Mary, Mary Quite Contrary is  a song about gardening, or Jack and Jill is just a cautionary tale about needing to watch where you’re walking. There may be violence and intrigue behind the imagery, but the surface itself is quite kid-friendly.

And, of course, nursery rhymes help kids learn about rhythm, ease them into reading, teach them rich visual vocabulary and have all sorts of educational purposes that I want them to benefit from.

But, the last song on this CD is Goosey Goosey Gander. Here are the lyrics for any of you unfamiliar with this one.

Goosey goosey gander,
Whither shall I wander?
Upstairs and downstairs
And in my lady’s chamber.
There I met an old man
Who wouldn’t say his prayers,
So I took him by his left leg
And threw him down the stairs

So, right there in the text we’ve got religious intolerance leading to physical violence. And the singer seems pretty unapologetic for their behavior; in fact, they’re bragging about it. It’s not exactly a lesson I want my kids to learn. And then, when I do look at the history of this particular rhyme, I find that the story behind it is not just of religious intolerance, but fanatical and murderous religious persecution, and of Catholic priests, no less.

So, I really don’t like my kids listening to this song. The only saving grace is that it is the very last song on the CD, so my son’s usually just about done listening, and is already in “let’s get ready to replay the CD” mode. Plus he’s fascinated by the illustration of the old lady in the shoe, which is right before it, so he’s not usually paying attention. Still, I’ve been amazed before by what they’ve managed to pick up before when I didn’t think they were paying attention, so it’s not much consolation.

I don’t want to get rid of the CD, because he loves it so much, and I like all the other songs on there. I just wish there was some way to get rid of the one song off of it.


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