McMaster suspends student group over songbook. Where DO kids get the idea it’s okay?

A group of McMaster engineering students known as the Redsuits — part of the McMaster Engineering Society, which is financed and run separately from the university — has been suspended from extra-curricular activities after a songbook was found to contain “sexist, violent and degrading material.” (National Post)

Obviously these students were not paying attention last year, when a similar controversy about a chant at Saint Mary’s University hit the press.

I don’t think this kind of campus activity is ever okay. When students come together to learn on campus, they should be able to study and network in an environment that is free from this kind of nonsense. And I applaud McMaster for acting on this information.

And yet since I wrote the blog post I linked to above, I have gone a little deeper into my thinking about it.

McMaster University, where the songbook was banned

I took the question of degrading chants at university up with a 19 year old brother of a friend, and he pointed out that a lot of the music he listens to contains similarly degrading lyrics. (Which he considers “no big deal.”)

I have to admit that brought me up short. My kids are still young enough that we seriously censor what they listen to and watch, and I don’t think we will ever allow degrading video games or lyrics to enter our home without some serious discussion, if ever.

But I have been surprised at some of the decisions we’ve had to make already. I’ve admitted in the past that I have a weakness for celebrity spots on Sesame Street, so we came across Katy Perry’s guest appearance, on YouTube. That led to me checking out the video for “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)” and I just about had a case of the Victorian vapours. For the very first time, I sympathized with my father’s reaction to the lyrics to “Billie Jean.” Because my reaction was very much “I do not want my sons watching this video!”

How do you work with your kids about the line between song lyrics, and the way we treat those around us?

(Photography by Jock Rutherford via Flickr)