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. Rick McDaniel

    More totally stupid behavior, on the part of humans.

    September 2, 2010 at 11:51 am | Report abuse |
    • runswithbeer

      Who cares if your kids think the bird's gay? Either kind of gay. My grandkids couldn't care less and they sure know the difference. They like the song. A song about a Gay bird ain't gonna have ANY effect on how your grownup child chooses a life partner, spouse or whatever.

      September 2, 2010 at 5:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sixate

      Next they will ban "life" because it may offend someon in the pro-life/pro-choice debate. And then "bird" because someone might think they are being "flipped the bird." It means happy, get over it, get on with your life....Oops, I used "life."

      September 2, 2010 at 5:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Johnny Five

      runswithbeer, Glad you're not my grandpa.

      September 2, 2010 at 5:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jeff S

      lol Kevin...Anyway, in defense of the principal, 27 years ago, us kids would shout "GAY" apparel. And yes, we pictured people dancing around the Christmas tree with feather boas, etc. We sure knew a lot about gay, but then considering the music we had in the early 80's, well, its not surprising!

      September 2, 2010 at 6:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • News1973

      This article is gay. You all can decide which definition of "gay" I meant to imply.

      September 2, 2010 at 6:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Neena Anjulie

      I think it's a good idea. As time goes by, so do fads, technology, and of course, the meaning of words. What this principle did was very honorable- not many people would have the backbone to change something that has been the same for so many years. He recognized the fact that the interpretation of the word "gay" has changed, so he changed the lyrics as to not make any student or faculty member of that orientation feel terrible when other children would laugh upon the stating of the word.

      September 2, 2010 at 6:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Katie

      The way I have always heard it was: Kookaburra sits in the gum drop tree. Merry, merry king of the bush is he. Laugh kookaburra, laugh kookaburra. Save some drops for me...
      On a side note Kookaburras are freakin' funny as hell to listen to.

      September 2, 2010 at 9:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jeb

      Are these people aware that there are multiple definitions for gay. In the song I believe they are referring to HAPPY...DUH! So dumb!

      September 2, 2010 at 10:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • DVCBK

      Agreed...who cares???? It is about a freaking bird! Even if not, so what... This is the most ridiculous article I have read in a while.

      September 2, 2010 at 10:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • gosh

      GAY MEANS HAPPY. (period) Stop taking things out of the context they were written – how will our kids ever get history if they don't get the language attached to it?

      September 2, 2010 at 11:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kirby

      <("")> bird

      September 2, 2010 at 11:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • jojo

      30 years ago, when I was in high school, a teacher told us how one of her older friends, named Gay, had really regretted the newer meaning of the word late in her life. very upsetting to her.
      this story isn't a joke. the teacher was right to change the word while keeping the meaning of the children's tune.
      the complainers most likely jumped on it without hearing more than a headline soundbite.

      September 2, 2010 at 11:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • gosh

      as usual, this forum has turned into people wanting to see their words on post – not sticking to the true conflict at hand. no more time for it.

      September 3, 2010 at 12:18 am | Report abuse |
    • A. A. Roberts

      I have seen the Kookaburra bird and it is definitely GAY!!!!

      September 3, 2010 at 1:38 am | Report abuse |
    • Doug

      Disgusting.. Amazing how far idiots will go to hide things like this.. I would bet my house, the guy is gay..

      September 3, 2010 at 2:23 am | Report abuse |
    • Jodie B.

      Really??? I mean we have war, famine, floods, children dying at the hands of abusers,and this is what this educator found was an important message to teach these children? REALLY?????? Here's an idea ...pull your head out of your you know what and get a clue!!

      September 3, 2010 at 2:50 am | Report abuse |
    • alex

      i am gay and i think the ban of the word would be good in the song i dont take offense to its contacts in a song

      September 3, 2010 at 8:56 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Skwerl

    He is right tho, children don't have the mental capacity to understand the different contexts of the the word.

    September 2, 2010 at 12:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Fed Up With PC

      Adults seem to be lacking in mental capacity too; for example, people who spell "though" T-H-O and "squirrel" S-K-W-E-R-L.

      September 2, 2010 at 1:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • TX13

      Most kids have a much higher mental capacity than we give them credit. Expect responsibility from a child, and you will get it. Demonstrate that they are children, and as such, infantile behavior is acceptible, you will get infantile behavior.

      September 2, 2010 at 1:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • whatever

      TX, children are children – they will behave as such. It's not about responsibility, it's about respect. This principal was not saying gay is bad, he was trying to keep the children from using the word in a disrespectful manner. Why do people always have to take everything and beat it to death? The principal shouldn't have backpedaled, but explained his stance. All people should be respected, but children have to be taught this, because they are by nature immature. We shouldn't expect them to think like adults.

      September 2, 2010 at 3:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • shegreek

      Yes, they do. They just need the proper eduction/instruction. Isn't that what school is for?

      September 2, 2010 at 4:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Richard

      I don't think that anyone who spells though "tho" should be speculating on the mental capacity of others.

      September 2, 2010 at 4:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Matt

      I can understand the principal's desire to end the word being used in an offensive manner. However, I think that's all the more reason it shouldn't be removed from a song where it is being used correctly and with a different meaning.

      September 2, 2010 at 4:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • todd stevens

      the proper spelling is skwurrel

      September 2, 2010 at 4:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jeff

      'Tho' for though is an internet colloquial misspelling.. Often the user knows how to spell the word if they so desire.

      September 2, 2010 at 4:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • dana

      exactly. children probably dont understand. so what harm is it?? and even if they do–because lets face it, kids growing up in the world today understand far more than we sometimes give them credit for–why is that such a bad thing? there is and never has been anything wrong with the word "gay". dont negatively influence our world's youth by making a "mountain out of a molehill" over one silly little word.

      September 2, 2010 at 4:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Carol

      yes they hear that word all the time use in negative way..they are not naive(like they should be lol) like they use to be

      September 2, 2010 at 5:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • coramae

      The word "gay" was around when I was a child and I'm getting close to 50. We would giggle and act stupid when the word came up. That's what children do. Big whoop. We also knew the difference.

      Now, not only are they afraid of gays themselves, but now the word!

      September 2, 2010 at 5:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Galoux

      Treat them as if they are stupid, they will be stupid.

      I used to snicker at Joyce Kilmer's "Trees." I snickered over "The Battle Hymn of the Republic "and "the glory in his bosom," to say nothing of "Rock my soul in the bosom of Abraham." Kids do that stuff. They get over it if adults act like adults.

      September 2, 2010 at 5:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Justin

      um... how about explaining it to them.

      September 2, 2010 at 5:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • bennit

      Someone please ... why does CNN ask for comments and then fail to post them for no apparent reason. I'm not certain if my post is still waiting in line (2 hours??) or they felt the content was not up to standard. If it was the content, I've read more controversial post here than mine could ever hope to have been. Is someone (censor) targeting individuals? Geez, c'mon CNN, I'm getting paranoid with your over censoring.

      September 2, 2010 at 5:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • candy

      children definatley have the mental capacity to understand different contexts of words, you dont need to look down on kids mr. high and happy!

      September 2, 2010 at 5:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • kolorblindd

      @"Fed Up with PC":
      Somewhat agree with you- some adults don't grasp context very well. Some kids are much better (and more mature) than adults in this respect.
      @"Fed Up with PC" (and "Richard"):
      Don't agree with you that 'tho' spelling is incorrect -the word appears in dictionaries as acceptable, and in fact according to Merriam-Webster, current use appears "chiefly in technical journals" –not exactly 'idiotic' or 'lacking in mental capacity', eh?

      September 2, 2010 at 6:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • suzy

      are you an idiot?? my 4 year old son knows the difference between there, their, to, two, too, sun, son, children knowing the differencial meanings of gay will have no long term psychological damage whatsoever!

      September 2, 2010 at 6:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • In response to Whatever

      Whatever- It isn't right to expect all children to be immature, because that isn't the truth. Every child is different. Yes, most children do have immature tendencies but a lot of them also have the mental capacity and maturity to understand adult topics. To say that children are children means that they are all similar in their thought processes and understandings. I don't think that they should all be recognized as a single group because we're all different. Some will recognize the word 'gay' in this song as merry, and others will not. But we are not all immature and child like. Also, very appropriate name. For an adult, whatever is very mature. And yes, I am technically a child, 14.

      September 2, 2010 at 7:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • NMGrrL

      Want to bet on that? Our upper grade school kids, in response to a similar attempt to remove "gay" as a vocabulary word from schools, protested with signs reading, "I'm GAY in a HAPPY way!" The sentiment has been adopted by straight supporters of gay, lesbian, bi-, and transgendered populations in protests as well. KIDS ARE NOT DUMB, and they are not as naive as some of us would like to think.

      September 2, 2010 at 8:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • NMGrrL

      For those who argue that children do not have the maturity to deal with the many contexts of words, I can only reply that banning speech (or song) will not teach them maturity, but will only underscore their sense that certain words are illicit or dirty. "Gay" has many meanings and those who cannot handle the word maturely need help in understanding the word in its proper context as used here. They will not learn that by exorcising the term and avoiding it. It's clear their parents have not dealt with the subject well. Explain the term and tell them to grow up.

      September 2, 2010 at 8:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Richie P

      They do understand the different meanings. That's WHY they can't sing that lyric without snickering.

      September 2, 2010 at 9:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • chester

      Nor can they understand the full meaning of a word like "justice," but that doesn't mean we ban it.

      September 2, 2010 at 10:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • william

      Maybe the kids should be taught the proper meaning of gay in this context! This is a school after all.

      September 2, 2010 at 11:30 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Brian

    How about teaching that words can have MANY meanings, otherwise they'll be adults that don't have the mental capacity to understand the different contexts of the the word

    September 2, 2010 at 12:08 pm | Report abuse |
  4. trent

    The word gay is gay

    September 2, 2010 at 12:18 pm | Report abuse |
  5. abettermind

    the man was trying to maintain order, respectable. but we cant keep kids in the dark or they will never grow into adults.

    September 2, 2010 at 12:25 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Wes Stephens


    September 2, 2010 at 12:26 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Danielle

    To be fair, when I first learned this song 22 years ago, we all absolutely giggled mindlessly at the word "gay". We definitely didn't understand. He went a little overboard but he's on the money with how immature children are. They are, after all, children.

    September 2, 2010 at 12:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • judith

      when i was a kid it was the lyrics "rock my soul in the bosom of abraham..." that had all of us rolling on the floor laughing.

      September 2, 2010 at 4:48 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Simone

    He's right! The definition of the word has changed so the lyrics should change. If he were gay would hebreceive more or less negative comments?

    September 2, 2010 at 12:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Fed Up With PC :
         /geɪ/ Show Spelled [gey] Show IPA adjective, -er, -est, noun, adverb
      1. having or showing a merry, lively mood: gay spirits; gay music.

      It's idiots like you who hear one disparaging context and want to throw the word in the trash. Get some brains, then go back to school, preferably one that actually teaches (which rules out the public school system).

      September 2, 2010 at 1:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • John

      If Fed Up With PC was right then it should be ok to compliment your coworker by "You're so gay, I really enjoy working with you", yet I would be reluctant to use that phrase in this context. It is obvious that the meaning of words can change. For example, Merriam-Webster defines "idiot" as "a person affected with extreme mental retardation" or "a foolish or stupid person" but it is increasingly being used in the sense "anyone with whom I do not fully agree".

      September 2, 2010 at 2:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Matt

      John, I have certainly used the word gay to describe my own mood and that of others. I guess that you are saying that is "not ok" and that makes me a bad person. Is that correct?

      That's like saying we shouldn't use the word "black" to describe something that is in fact the color black. Some people are called black and it can have a negative conotation as well if used in malice. The same could go for the word "white" or the brand name "Oreo". The suggestion that the proper use of these words should be striken from the language because of misuse by a subset of people strikes me as ridiculous.

      September 2, 2010 at 5:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • JR

      The meaning of the word hasn't changed – a new meaning has been added; not the same thing. I hardly think the OED has deleted the "original" meaning of the word gay from their dictionary!

      September 2, 2010 at 5:21 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Suga

    I understand what he was trying to do although i dont agree. He should have opted instead to teach the context in which the word was being used in the song. Sometimes when you think you're doing right you're actually doing more wrong. We need to be a tad bit more cautious especially when we are dealing with tommorow's leaders.

    September 2, 2010 at 12:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Patrick

      because small children can understand that?

      September 2, 2010 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Daniel

      I have to disagree. I think he had to choose between a rock and a hard place here. We all know that if he would have ventured into a commentary about the gay lifestyle (even in a neutral context), there would be even more flack coming from the parents than there is now.

      Secondly, why is everyone blaming his decision? It's clear that these children already associate "Gay" with being a negative thing. Do the parents not have to take some responsibility for that misstep in their upbringing? These children are consistently regurgitating sentiments born out of bigotry and their parents are upset that the teacher simply tried to defuse a situation in order to get them to focus on a lesson? Absurd.

      September 2, 2010 at 4:38 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Name*Steve

    I agree anything that could be offensive towards kids should be censored but then we should censor the bible too it's violent as well

    September 2, 2010 at 12:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lady Kelli

      Yeah really! Why does the Bible get immunity? People getting murdered and stoned by rocks to death, the death of firstborn babies, etc. And just look what happened to Christ! Blood everywhere!

      September 2, 2010 at 1:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Duh

      Umm...the Bible isn't taught in school genius so no need to "censor" it. You morons who troll the comment sections just dying to slam a Christian make me laugh, your the height of hypocrisy...

      September 2, 2010 at 7:55 pm | Report abuse |
  11. John Schavone

    If we could just simply switch to the more cool and apropos "Mo" and "Ro" as coined by the Will and Grace writers, we could give the words "gay" and "straight" back to the english language for their original intent.

    September 2, 2010 at 12:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • swest

      I think it should be MO and FO!

      September 2, 2010 at 2:17 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Shaun

    I agree with what he was trying to do. And I think he explained himself well. His statement "I guess that was hypersensitive of me." was right on the money and an honest assessment of his actions. This is a mistake that most of us could make in this ridiculously 'politically correct' culture we now live in. Let's just leave the song alone, try to educate the kids (as well as possible) on the context and correct use of this word, and move on. We've already spent far too much time on this non-issue. Truly.

    September 2, 2010 at 12:44 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Dan

    I understand why he did it. No one uses the word gay to mean happy anymore. He wasn't trying to make a political statement. He wasn't trying to change the word to avoid a sensitive subject. He simply wanted to get through the song without everyone giggling. I have no idea why anyone was offended by this action or why this is even news. I really hate this political correctness cr*p.

    September 2, 2010 at 1:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • steve harnack

      So let's have a national censorship board to go through every book, song play, movie speech, to correct any wording that doesn't reflect the very latest fads.

      September 2, 2010 at 5:06 pm | Report abuse |
  14. TX13

    The problem with modern ideology: "We need to protect our children from all the wrong in the world!".

    Children need to be prepared for life as early as they are capable of understanding it. A child is mentally capable of adult maturity at the age of 12 to 16. What has changed over the years, is the period of coddling these kids to keep them ignorant and "safe".

    College isn't the time to prepare for life. College is the time to start living life. From birth it is a parent and educator's responsibility to arm kids with the life lessons they may one day need, and censorship only hinders that goal.

    September 2, 2010 at 1:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • swest

      Are you saying we should encourage out children to be gay?

      September 2, 2010 at 2:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Galoux

      Hear, hear!

      September 2, 2010 at 5:29 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Dude

    This principal did the right thing. Gay people need to find better things to do with their time than harrass a school principal for trying to do his job. Try to remember to find out the details of something before going on a crusade against it.

    September 2, 2010 at 1:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cliff Vegas

      Dude... you so missed the point.

      September 2, 2010 at 1:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • swest

      Let's all be gay!

      September 2, 2010 at 2:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gretchen

      GLBT's are NOT "harassing" the principal. Grow UP and get a life.

      September 2, 2010 at 7:25 pm | Report abuse |
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