Time To Sing The National Anthem

Should children be made to learn the national anthem?

This should be my shortest blog ever.

The answer is YES.

The end.

If only it were that simple…..

Why shouldn’t we teach children to sing “God Save the Queen” (or “God Save the King”, depending on who the reigning monarch is at the time)?

Supporting the idea of getting children to sing God Save the Queen pulsates with politics. It can make you sound like an old royalist Tory duffer, a Brexiteering buffoon with Union Jack waistcoat or a member of the far-right with sinister intentions.

National anthems are a big deal because we sing them at sporting events and use them to assert our national identities. The World Cup makes a real fanfare out of them.

These are musical badges that let the world know who we are. People drape themselves in flags, paint their faces in flags and belt out their national anthems with such gusto that veins and arteries nearly burst…if you know the words that is.

I doubt very much whether most people do know the words to God Save the Queen because it’s rarely heard outside of football, athletics or for official Queeny business.

Children don’t know it. Plenty of footballers didn’t used to either but now they are being made to learn the words because the cameras are on them and they look daft stood there looking blank. The 2nd and 3rd verses are tricky!

The importance of national identity is enormously important and we should be allowed to celebrate it without feeling like it is wrong or it doesn’t celebrate diversity. Of course it celebrates diversity as we are a diverse nation.

Jo Cox was right when she said that “We are far more united and have far more in common with each other than that which divides us.”

We share humanity. Look at the emotions of supporters from around the world when ‘their’ team is winning or when ‘their’ team is losing – the facial reactions are the same.

We share the same humanity but we can still support our own traditions, cultures and get pumped up about ‘our team’ and ‘our country’.

Singing Schools

The national anthem has never been officially sung in our schools.

There have been calls for it to be included in the national curriculum and to be part and parcel of teaching children about our history and traditions. Start digging and you will find there is plenty to talk about that crosses the whole curriculum so its an interdisciplinary gem with bags of potential.

The national anthem feeds into ‘what makes us British’ and should be at the core of teaching ‘British values’ but do schools teach it?

Ah, British values…what the hell are they?

The Government set out its definition of Fundamental British Values (FBV) as “democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs” – these were seemingly plucked out of thin air and set out in the in the 2011 Prevent Strategy.

Yet these FBV and the term FBV have been criticised.  The citizenship report ‘The Ties that Bind: Citizenship and Civic Engagement in the 21st Century’, argues that instead of saying FBV we should use the term “Shared Values of British Citizenship” and

The Government should initially change the existing list of values from “democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs” to “democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, and respect for the inherent worth and autonomy of every person.

Surely teaching the national anthem has to fit into this if we are serious about a sense of British citizenship?

Earlier this year MP Andrew Rosindell said he wanted God Save The Queen to be part of the national curriculum in order to “provide a great sense of unity” and “Disrespecting or disowning the anthem is a cause for division.”

Teaching the national anthem would give children a sense of belonging and support integration. The unofficial national anthems of  “Jerusalem”, “Rule, Britannia!” and “Land of Hope and Glory” are sometimes sung but what about God Save The Queen? Is this really a step too far? Some say it is outdated, irrelevant, promotes war and is mono-religious.

Lots of schools around the world start the day with an assembly at which the national anthem is sung and the national flag is raised. In the UK, there is no national anthem sung and if a school was to fly the national flag there would be grumbles and outrage.

But we can be patriots and pro-European so why not consider what the French are planning?

Education minister Jean-Michel Blanquer, says that from autumn pupils will be required to learn La Marseillaise, understand the meaning of liberty, equality and fraternity and explain the origins of the tricolour French flag. They will also learn the meaning of the European flag and to be able to recognise Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, the anthem of the EU.

It almost sounds revolutionary but this has been talked about many times before. In fact, primary schools have been required to include La Marseillaise on the curriculum since 2005. But the plans now include:

  • By the age of 8 children be required to know the national anthem by heart and be expected to recocgnise Marianne, the female emblem of the French Republic.
  • By the age of 10 children will have to sing La Marseillaise in public and be expected to have a basic grasp of “representative democracy”.

What is wrong with nation-building, social cohesion and learning the values and traditions that have fed into and shaped a country? Nothing!

Shouldn’t we be doing the same and singing our hearts out?

Do You Know The Words?

There are actually different versions of God Save The Queen but here is the ‘standard version’

God save our gracious Queen!
Long live our noble Queen!
God save the Queen!
Send her victorious,
Happy and glorious,
Long to reign over us:
God save the Queen!

O Lord our God arise,
Scatter her enemies,
And make them fall:
Confound their politics,
Frustrate their knavish tricks,
On Thee our hopes we fix:
God save us all.

Thy choicest gifts in store,
On her be pleased to pour;
Long may she reign:
May she defend our laws,
And ever give us cause,
To sing with heart and voice,
God save the Queen!

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