AST WEEK in my article, I mentioned my daughter, so I thought this week I’d reference my son. When he was about three years old we lived in Atlanta and he was in a daycare with children of many different races. His best friend there was a Chinese boy. My son never asked about the color of anyone’s skin or the shape of their eyes. To him and all the other kids there, they were just kids—all the same. They didn’t have any prejudices or biases. Here’s a beautiful example of what I’m talking about.
Isn’t this kind of colorblindness always the case? Until, of course, adults and society get involved, and begin to inflict their biases on children. I’ve often thought that this is what happens with music, especially music in the Church.
ANYONE INVOLVED WITH TEACHING music to children, especially very young children, will know that they’ll gladly sing anything you put in front of them. If they know you like it, they’ll like it. If you tell them, “this is what you’re supposed to do,” they’ll gladly do it. It’s been wonderful to hear the first and second graders in our school sing hymns like Jesus, My Lord, My God, My All (SWEET SACRAMENT). They absolutely love it! It’s equally great to know that my choir kids love Panis Angelicus and Fauré’s Ave Maria.
Too often, however, adults (parents, teachers, older children) tell them that’s not the music they’re supposed to like. It’s not cool. And besides, aren’t kids supposed to be cute? What normal kid would like Latin? What modern Catholic kid wouldn’t want to sing something exciting, with fun things like clapping and stamping and raising up their arms? It’s when they experience these prejudices that kids start to think twice, biases set in, and we’ve lost them.
What’s both interesting and sad is when adults with these prejudices hear children joyfully singing traditional music, they dismiss it as an aberration. Further, they often stereotype these kids. They’ll say that the little ones are too young to know better, or that the choir kids are just a little “different” (weird, or worse). “Just wait until they become teenagers,” they say, “then they’ll really rebel.”
I’m convinced that kids and teens have been taught by adults with an agenda to dislike solid hymnody, chant, and anything that smacks of tradition in the Church. So many adults find it necessary to inflict their prejudices on these children instead of just staying out of it. I think I know why. Do you?