“I,” said the sparrow,
“With my bow and arrow,
I spared Cock Robin.”
A couple of months ago, a colleague at work passed on to me the news that a few elementary schools in Oxfordshire are cleaning up nursery rhymes and fairy tales. “Your countrymen—oops, countrypersons—are at it again,” he said. Baa Baa Black Sheep is apparently now Baa Baa Rainbow Sheep, and the seven dwarves have been sanitized from the title of Snow White. Whether from the story itself wasn’t made clear.
According to the manager (which must be the new, improved name for headmaster) of two area schools, “No one should feel pointed out because of their race, gender, or anything else.”
Nor should children be exposed to unhappy endings, we gather: in the revised version, all the king’s men do put Humpty Dumpty back together again. Note to Oxfordshire schools: in the interests of equality, please ensure that the King admits women to the Grand Old Duke of York’s 10,000 persons.
In this brave new kinderworld, I suppose there’ll be no more baking blackbirds in pies, and Tom Tom the Piper’s son’s pig will become a beloved family pet instead of Sunday lunch. Red Riding Hood’s wolf will serve a prison sentence for assault and attempted corruption of a minor, during which time he’ll become a born-again Christian and upon release, spend the rest of his life helping the poor. It does my heart good.
Don’t get me wrong. I applaud the idea of making everyone feel accepted. Finally Polly and Sukey can come out of the closet, stop arguing about the kettle, and set up a nice little cottage industry knitting mufflers out of Baa Baa Rainbow Sheep’s wool.