Don’t Mention Religion!

by Dick Puddlecote

Don’t Mention Religion! I understand that it’s usually considered inadvisable to discuss religion, but on a day like this … *

Long-standing readers will know that my respect for state education is pretty low. I’ve written extensively – from experience – about how poor some of its priorities appear to be. I’m not going to bore you again, just go click the education tag for back story.

But this week presented a very ugly deja vue experience, which I first described in 2010.

Arrived back home and the boy (9), who has just decided to get into football, was watching the England match. After a few minutes the crowd started singing the national anthem so I hummed along. A mad thought entered my head …

Did he know the words? No.

Did he know what the tune was? No.

Did he know it was the anthem of our country? Well, he had heard it before matches during the World Cup but … err, that’s it.

Asking downstairs, the same responses from the girl (10).

How fucking shit is that?

A tip for new or prospective parents. Don’t expect state education to teach your kids anything. Instead, assume the worst and do it yourself.

My point back then was that you would expect them to be taught the basics, Lord knows we pay enough for it.

I’ve left it mostly alone since, but – in the week following Remembrance Sunday – they have both been given homework (from two different schools) related to some guy who they instantly know as being called Siddartha Gutama.

I had a very good education, and am the go-to guy when things get a bit tough for their (pretty paltry, it has to be said) homework. But I don’t know the guy.

Turns out he’s an icon of the Buddhist faith.

So I asked a very simple question, you would think, of a 13 and nearly 12 year old in Britain. Do they know the words of the Lord’s Prayer which was said during last Sunday’s ceremony?

Blank looks.

I even gave them the first three lines.

Blank looks.

They not only didn’t know the words, they had never even heard of it.

But they are both intimately knowledgeable about some guy who lived two and a half thousand years ago and is followed by just about no-one in this country.

Listen, I’m not religious in the slightest, despite Irish ancestry, but surely the Lord’s Prayer should be at the forefront of religious education in a state which is supposed to be a little bit CofE? You know, having a Queen which is the head of state and the church, and all? How in buggery have they not been taught of the Lord’s Prayer’s existence after 8 or 9 years of state education, yet they know all about Sikhism, Hinduism, Islam and even the primary Buddha as if they’re chums?

I despair sometimes, I really do.

* If you came here thinking I’d be discussing this irrelevance, then my changing the title from “Our Father, Who Art In Asia” wasn’t a complete waste of time, after all.

6 responses to “Don’t Mention Religion!

  1. The defenders of the idea of a system of state education did not tend (in the 18th and 19th century) pretend that people would not learn to read and write and add up without the state (some pretended that – but mostly it is modern “at first there was darkness and then the state said let-there-be-light” nonsense) what they tended to say was that, without the state, parents (especially poor parents) would not pay to have their children taught religion and national history and …….

    This was not only true in Britain – it was also true in the United States (I can feel Ian B. getting happy) with Sam Adams and co (way back in the 1700s) argueing for state education to educate people in religion and so on – it was not till after World War II that the “ancient tradition” of atheist American education (and I do mean invented – the Supreme Court just invented it, off the tops of their heads, and the academics duely wrote than American government schools had always been atheist).

    It was of the great ironies of history that state education (which was argued for on the grounds that it would help people become religious) has become a great machine for undermining religious knowledge and knowledge of national history and….. (everything it was supposed to help with).

    Oh, by the way, it is no good at teaching people to read, write, spell, or add up either.

    I learned nothing at school – nothing at all (in all the the years I was there).

    Of course Sean would say I did not learn much outside school either – and in terms of spelling and grammar (and so on) he is quite correct.

  2. Our father, who art in heaven, hello be thy name…

  3. As a recent leaver of Secondary/sixth form I can confirm it is still abysmal. I learnt more history from Medieval II : Total War 2 than I did in the 3 years of compulsary history lessons. English lessons comprised of analysing poetry and various books. I don’t remember ever learning or being told correct sentence structure or advanced punctuation. Geography was about global warming and Religious studies, well… I learnt nothing.

    However the first 5 years in a catholic primary was not too bad (even if I did bring my toy cars into mass to play on the pews). I must remember to visit St. Georges cathedral again some time. Not sure how long it might have left though, it is Lambeth after all.

    • Jordan – I was at a South London comprehensive in the 1970s. The teachers made no effort whatever to tell us what to think or say – this was still England in those days – but they made just as little effort as you report to teach us anything. My own introduction to grammar and syntax was when I bought a copy of Teach Yourself Latin. Try learning that without knowing the difference between a gerund and a participle.

      The RE teacher was usually absent, and I spent most of the lessons reading through the many volumes of the Pan Book of Horror Stories. I still think now, now and again, of C.M. Eddie’s “The Whispering Horror.”

      On the whole, I don’t think I can complain.

  4. Sean, I pop in now and then, but I’m not as omniscient as people claim…