September 2nd, 2010
11:01 AM ET

In Aussie school, Kookaburra sits in gum tree - but isn't gay

The principal of a school in Australia sparked quite a firestorm on the web after asking students to stop using the word "gay" when singing the classic "Kookaburra" children's song - though he told media on Thursday he never intended to offend anyone.

Garry Martin, principal of Le Page Primary School, had instructed kids to sing the words "fun your life must be" instead of "gay your life must be."

Martin had said he changed the words because the meaning of the word "gay" had changed since the song was first penned about 75 years ago.

As soon as the first stories started coming out on the Internet, users took to comment sections of articles, Twitter and Facebook with ire that the school was seemingly trying to ban the use of the word gay. An Australian gay and lesbian advocacy group called the Also Foundation has called the ban absurd.

Now, Martin now wants to make clear - he was never trying to start any kind of trouble - or say that there was anything wrong with being gay.

"All I was doing, relatively innocently, was substituting one word because I knew if we sing 'Gay your life must be' the kids will roll around the floor in fits of laughter," Martin told Fairfax Radio.

Martin did acknowledge that some kids in the school already use the word in a disparaging way, so he was just trying to eliminate that going further.

"For example, if a boy is not particularly good at sport, they will refer to that child as gay," he told the Sydney Morning Herald. "They have a vague idea how it can be used but they don't really know the full extent of it."

Many of those commenting on story, which has been picked up around the globe, seem to think drawing attention to the word at all was Martin's biggest problem.

It appears, Martin too, now shares the sentiment.

"Political correctness is very much to the fore in schools — what's appropriate and what isn't — and sometimes we rightly or wrongly err on the side of caution," Martin told 9 News. "I guess that was hypersensitive of me."

soundoff (253 Responses)
  1. slag

    Firstly, shame on you CNN, Martin never banned the word "gay", secondly, he innocently swapped the word 'fun" for "gay" to get 7 and 8 year olds to cooperate better while singing a song...... and that's all. As a parent, it makes perfect sense to me for 7 and 8 year olds. Lastly, there is nothing sinister, indecent, or newsworthy in his actions.

    September 2, 2010 at 6:28 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Real World

    THE REAL GAY AGENDA (chuckle)

    I am going to dance down the street in my pink tutu
    listening to YMCA
    screaming.....if you dont give up your children
    I am going to whip out my fairy wand and take them away to fairy land

    Sorry, but i am not a Catholic Priest.
    There is NO gay agenda.

    September 2, 2010 at 6:31 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Real World

    Enola Gay delivered the bomb.

    Enola fun ?????????

    September 2, 2010 at 6:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • JTinCowtown

      perfect example of the dumbing down of society....this poor schmendrik probably had all the "dangerous" words to harmless songs changed and now can't even spot a mildly witty double entendre....we're doomed I tells ya!

      September 2, 2010 at 8:18 pm | Report abuse |
  4. ixchelkali

    What's sad about this to me is that this educator missed an opportunity to educate. Instead of changing the words to the song, why couldn't he have taught them that the word "gay" has more than one meaning? He could have explained that words' meanings often change over time. Then when the kids come across the word gay in its old meaning, at least some of them might remember and understand what they were reading. "Oh, yeah, the principal told us about that."

    What bothers me is not his political correctness or lack thereof, but his lazy approach to teaching. I suppose next he'll rewrite "'Twas the Night Before Christmas," so that the students won't laugh at "the moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow," or perhaps he'll edit Shakespeare's Henry V to have the King say "Our FUNness and our gilt are all besmirch’d with rainy marching in the painful field..."

    Students laugh because that usage is unfamiliar to them. Instead of avoiding it, make them familiar with it, so that they don't continue snickering at it into adulthood.

    September 2, 2010 at 6:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • smccuen

      amen

      September 2, 2010 at 9:14 pm | Report abuse |
  5. George

    Ah an article about people overreacting to someone who (admittedly) overreacted. Complete with posts of people overreacting to the article! This is not newsworthy at more than a local level.

    September 2, 2010 at 6:36 pm | Report abuse |
  6. AndyTheGameIventor

    In this case the administrator is right. The word "gay" has changed meaning so dramatically that the song's meaning is badly distorted and becomes a slur.

    It's a bit like the swastika – which pre-WW2 was simply a Hindu and Jain symbol that did not offend anyone. As it acquired new meaning, people had to be cautious in using it in its original manner.

    September 2, 2010 at 6:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • smccuen

      People also naively misunderstand the Confederate Banner – and therefore try to ban it. Education is the answer – avoidance and political "correctness" perpetuate stupidity and magnify errors all in a ridiculous attempt to avoid "insulting" or offending someone or some group of ones......and THAT is an offense to folks with common sense who CAN think for themselves.

      September 2, 2010 at 9:19 pm | Report abuse |
  7. patricia

    Totally Moronic!!

    September 2, 2010 at 6:39 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Real World

    There is another story on CNN about Bullying in school.
    Some parents dont want to educate children about this because
    they think it will open the door for thier children to become gay.

    Truth is, they actually believe this, so they want the bullying to continue
    How can you even call these people "Parents" ???
    They just want the right to spread hate.

    Tollerance to ALL, should be part of education.

    The sad part is this....
    Until we start beating up on the bullies
    they wont stop.

    Offence is the best defence.

    September 2, 2010 at 6:53 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Russ

    Liberace gay.

    September 2, 2010 at 7:00 pm | Report abuse |
  10. roseadelaide

    Oh good grief!!! Where I live, we call this censorship.

    September 2, 2010 at 7:08 pm | Report abuse |
  11. ziggy

    Coo-CooBerry is more like it

    September 2, 2010 at 7:20 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Mike

    Sounds like a rather stupid song to begin with – why bother singing it at all?

    September 2, 2010 at 7:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • smccuen

      I suspect it is sung because when else would anyone have the opportunity to use the word Kookaburra? Bet no one would sing the same song about a robin or blue jay.

      September 2, 2010 at 9:22 pm | Report abuse |
  13. DuhDude

    "African Americans" have tried to ban the word "black", as if "black" were a negative trait that one should be ashamed of. No one has ever raised a stink about that.

    September 2, 2010 at 7:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • GQ

      African Americans have not tried to ban the word 'black'. Many African Americans do not want to be referred to as 'black'. If you're going to be a racist, at least get it right, otherwise it makes you look like an ignorant racist.

      September 2, 2010 at 7:45 pm | Report abuse |
  14. GQ

    This is really, really stupid. It's a song. This is the way it was written. It's not his job to interpret the song. Either sing it or don't.

    September 2, 2010 at 7:42 pm | Report abuse |
  15. fuyuko

    there is nothing wrong with being gay or the word gay. plenty of women have this name, and it doesn't instantly invalidate the original name of the word. people need to lighten up.

    September 2, 2010 at 7:43 pm | Report abuse |
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