Christian Children in Music Class
A FULL-TIME minister of Jehovah’s Witnesses in New York city relates an experience she had involving her daughter and some school officials:
“Though my youngest daughter qualified to be in the advanced music class at her school, she was removed from it. She was transferred to the regular class, which was not nearly as progressive as the advanced one. The teachers explained that this was necessary since my daughter, because of her Bible-based beliefs, would not play the patriotic and religious songs. At first I thought I should forget the matter. But my daughter had her heart set on learning to play an instrument. Knowing that her father’s salary was not enough to allow for private music lessons, she had looked forward to studying music under the arrangement provided by the public-school system.
“The more I thought about what was happening, the more I realized how unfair the situation was. So I discussed it with my husband, and he felt that the matter deserved investigation. The next day I went to the school and spoke to my daughter’s grade advisor, the music teacher and two of the assistants to the principal. They told me there was nothing that they could do since all music students must play all songs.
“The following week I contacted the district supervisor’s office and was told to report the matter to the principal of the school. This surprised me, as I thought her assistants had presented her views. The next day I visited the principal in her office and tried to reason with her as I had done with the others. I mentioned that they are considerate of the religious beliefs of other children and even included them in their curriculum. Many children, for example, are permitted to leave school early on Wednesday for religious instruction. And on Fridays the cafeteria does not serve meat because of the religious belief of some students. ‘Now,’ I said, ‘we are Jehovah’s witnesses. Our children are in your schools. We are here to stay. Isn’t it time you included us in your curriculum?’
“The principal listened very attentively. Then she heard her assistant’s view. Finally, she said: ‘I have never had a problem like this before; but if this child qualifies for music instruction, then she is going to get it.’ She sent for the music teacher, who insisted all instruments and students were needed for each song. When the principal observed that only two patriotic songs were being taught, the music teacher told her that my daughter would not play the religious songs either. The principal looked at her and exclaimed: ‘Well, how many religious songs you play?’ The music teacher started telling her some of the names of the songs. There was ‘Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer’ and ‘O Come, All Ye Faithful.’ Then the principal interrupted: ‘Wait a minute! Take that one out. Even I don’t like that one.’
“The final decision was that my daughter be put back in her original class. The principal asked about another young Witness, a brother who also had been removed from the music class. Her assistant said she would send for the boy’s parents before taking further action. However, the principal replied: ‘Don’t bother. Put him back!’ When she learned that there actually were three students involved, she said: ‘Put all of them back. When songs are played that are not in agreement with their religious beliefs, they will sit quietly while the others play.’
“Later the principal said: ‘We need mothers like you to work with us. Will you please come to a meeting in my office a few days from now?’ I explained that my work as one of Jehovah’s witnesses keeps me very busy, but that if I could, I would attend. She said that she knew of our work and that she had read our magazines and found them very practical and pertinent to world affairs.
“A card was sent to me informing me of the meeting, which I attended Wednesday morning. This was a meeting of women who formed the executive board of the directors of the school. They meet each month with the principal to discuss problems facing the school. Also, they visit the district supervisor and seek ways to cope with such problems. At this meeting I was invited to become a member of the board of directors. I declined the offer because of my ministerial responsibilities, but I thanked them for the invitation. As I left the school, I felt very thankful to Jehovah that everything had turned out for his honor and for the good of his people.”