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The Moral of the Macarena

Democrats do it. Republicans do it. Baseball, basketball, and football fans do it. The macarena, in fact, has swept the nation, including many of its schools.

But this hottest of fads quickly lost its sizzle for school officials in Wake County, N.C. It's not that they exactly booted the dance that puts arms, hands, and hips in motion. But school officials advised principals that as long as the macarena wasn't part of the curriculum, they should skip it.

"My job is to keep us focused on the curriculum," said Suzanne S. King, the district's assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction.

The trouble started when a parent complained that she didn't like her 2nd-grade son learning how to wiggle his hips, which is part of the dance.

After investigating, Ms. King concluded that the macarena wasn't fit for Wake County students for an altogether different reason. "I'm more concerned about what message we might send with the lyrics," she said.

In many noisy settings--ballparks or national political conventions, for instance--the lyrics are indistinguishable. The English version of the tune, which is spicier than the original Spanish recording, alludes to a seductive woman contemplating a one-night stand in the absence of her boyfriend.

Teachers in other school systems also have taken up the dance--only to drop it later.

A physical education teacher in Fairfax County, Va., said she had been using a version of the macarena as a warm-up exercise for her elementary students. Not only was it fun for the students--and about three-fourths of them already knew the dance--but it was a good way for them to sharpen their listening and direction-following skills, she said.

But when another teacher warned her about the lyrics, she said, "I just stopped it."

Meanwhile, the episode in the Wake County schools has stirred up quite a fuss, what with newspaper reporters and television producers calling from all parts of the country.

At an administrators' meeting last week, Ms. King said, the superintendent related some recent discussions he had had with school officials in western North Carolina. "They didn't know how badly we were affected by Fran [the hurricane that forced schools to close six days and caused nearly $1.5 million in damage to the county schools], but they did know we had banned the macarena," he quipped.


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