I spent an hour last week at our back to school mass in a cold and mouldy church of significant architectural heritage.
The whole affair was a masterclass in the complete irrelevance of the church to our fucked up education system. Not only are we not helping kids to think critically, examine their emotions, play with a free spirit and often not to read and write, but we are regularly subjecting them to an auld man in an unfashionable dress droning on in a monotone about who knows fucking what to an audience of 100 school kids, 7 staff and 5 parishioners. Yup 5. In the 40 minute drone the padre managed to get in no less than 10 digs at the school for failing to prepare readings and adequate music. For those of you who somehow managed to learn something in school, that’s about 1 every 4 minutes.
And here I am, in this cold damp beautiful Pugin masterpiece, with mouse shit on the floor, peeling plaster, and an auld man in a dress suggesting that a good way to help the new arrivals in our community to learn ”our” language, was maybe to have an auld pray together.
The most appropriate response came from the six year old mixed race Hungarian kid who had put her coat on backwards and was burying her face in the hood. Smart kid. Getting warm, blocking out the drone, and creating a reasonable environment for meditation. And in fairness to the harried staff member assigned to her pew, she was allowed to remain there until it looked like she might be starting a movement.
And in fairness to the priest, a canon no less, I am sure he wasn’t too keen to be there either. Not that after going on 50 years he could have any doubts about his overall role, but this particular obligation must seem particularly irksome.
So there we all were, in the cold damp masterpiece, me holding back the tears of laughter, the padre irritable, the principal bewildered, and the children desperate for distraction. The unspoken lament must have been audible halfway round the feckin globe, “Why Oh Why in the year of 2016 are we still at this?”.
And to the people who may say, how can YOU do this, I reply, 25 hr working week, 183 working days and a living wage. Shit conditions, resources and system, but sure you can’t have everything.
If the Luas workers, the Bus drivers, the Nurses, the Guards, the Water workers and everyone else in the public and private sector had those hours we might be starting down the road to addressing some of the fundamental flaws in society. We might start to have the space to build communities where our kids could have a mix of formal and informal spaces to learn, that they could dip in and out of as they chose, when the mood took them and when the desire for knowledge and experience became a burning flame that could not be crushed. Me, I think about 10 – 15 hours of formal teaching in a structured space would be more than enough, and the rest in community spaces where people just hang out and do stuff. And the church is more than welcome to be one of those spaces. But for now, I think everyone would appreciate if the stifling smothering suffocating stranglehold it still has on our education system should be smashed for once and for all. No half measures, no one for you one for me and one for the non-believers crap. Just straightforward secular, inclusive education.
I was thinking as well, that there was so much empty space that we could get the children to sit spread out through the whole wonderful beautiful Puginistic space, and spell out in Morse code
“Save Our Schools…Save Our Souls…Save Our Shit…”or whatever yer havin yerself.
It has as good a chance of being heard, listened to or heeded as this, the ramblings of the padre, or much of most anything else going on……