On Monday, St. Mary's instructor Louis Lebherz was ordered to apologize to his class and complete diversity training after instructing a student to sing a certain song from Kern and Hammerstein's Show Boat, "Ol' Man River". It seems Lebherz made the student croon the "original version" of the ditty in front of the class, which included the following lyrics: "Niggers all work on de Mississippi/Niggers all work while de white folks play...". Altered versions of the song include substituting the racial epithet with "darkies" (changed in 1938 by Paul Roberson who sang the song in the original show), with "colored folks" for the 1946 revival, and elimination altogether with the infamous line now typically reading, "Here we all work on de Mississippi..." (Another example of musical theater cleaning up its act, i f you will, is Sondheim's "You Could Dive A Person Crazy," which now substitutes the line "...if a person was a fag" with "...if a person was a drag.")
Associated Press reports that "[a]n African American student complained after Lebherz had a student sing the original version of the show tune 'Old Man River.'" Which? Is an odd move on Lebrerz part. There are, after all, several less inflammatory versions of the song from which to choose.
So. Is this a case of St. Mary's College (who are trying to "improve race relations following criticism from accreditors") being politically correct? Or, is this a case of an instructor in desperate need a swift kick square in the pants?