SYDNEY (Reuters Life!) - A school principal has come under fire after making his primary school students replace a “gay” Kookaburra sitting in an old gum tree with a “fun” bird in the classic Australian song.
Garry Martin of Le Page Primary School in Melbourne decided to replace the song’s last line “gay your life must be” with “fun your life must be” to end the laughter that erupted in the classroom when the children sang the word “gay.”
The song, “Kookaburra Sits In An Old Gum Tree,” about an native Australian kingfisher, dates back to 1934 and is favorite for singing in rounds.
But Martin came under fire for his decision, receiving angry emails after the media heard of the move from parents of his seven and eight year old students.
Martin denied removing the word “gay” from the song was done with any malice, saying he just wanted to maintain order at school where children sometimes used the word as playground insult while not really understanding its meaning.
“Seventy years ago when the song was written ‘gay’ meant you are happy. Nowadays we know it’s got all sorts of different meanings,” Martin told Reuters.
“It wasn’t any sort of school policy. It wasn’t me being dictatorial or banning the word. All it was at the time was a behavior management strategy ... to stop them giggling.”
Due to the controversy, Martin said it might be better to revert to the original word “gay.”
“I possibly should have stuck with the original and explained that in a tender, caring way,” he said.
Earlier this year, the song written by Australian teacher Marion Sinclair for a Girl Guides’ competition was also involved in a legal row over a riff used in the hit 1981 song “Down Under” by the Australian band Men At Work.
Editing by Belinda Goldsmith