Look, I’m no religious zealot. I don’t ever go to church but I sometimes wonder if a little ‘religion’ – a little God-talk and action wouldn’t go astray in children’s lives.
No, don’t go off screaming about it all being bullshit and who am I to say if children should – or could - believe in God; or a god, or any god, or gods.
I hear what you say about the ‘magic person in the sky’…but for kids it’s not all that serious.
When I was a very young student teacher, the school at which I was observing started the day with a morning assembly where the small children sang for about 30 minutes. Before the main singing began, all the children stood and sang a little prayer that went:
“Dear loving Father, once again we come
To thank you for another happy day begun.
We are your little ones, needing your care.
Listen we ask you to our morning prayer:
We thank you for the trees and flowers bright
For rain and sunshine, for the darkness and the light.
For all ……….”. (and sadly, I have forgotten the rest)
After a following ‘Good morning’ song of greeting they sat down and continued with the music.
Four years later I was a fully qualified teacher with my own room of four and five year-olds and I continued this tradition.
To add to this little prayerful morning interlude, at the end of each day all the children in my care placed their hands together (prayer-like) and we sang:
“Hands together, softly so,
Little eyes shut tight;
Father, just before we go,
Hear our prayer tonight.
We are all your children here,
This is what we pray,
Keep us when the dark is near,
And through every day.”
This was followed by a ‘Goodbye’ song, where the children acknowledged their classmates as they sang.
‘My’ children also had a song to welcome any new baby brothers and sisters that went like this:
“There are blessings from God all about us,
we should thank him for gifts great and small.
But the gift of a dear little baby,
Needs the very best ‘thankyou’ of all.”
Throughout all the years that I continued these ‘religious’ songs, there was never a word of criticism. (I always taught in government State schools, never ones connected to a church).
On many afternoons, parents waiting to collect their children after school, would stand quietly outside the (glass) classroom door until our goodbye songs were sung. So they were fully aware of what was going on.
But, that was way back in the 1960s.
Fast forward to the 1980s and beyond and it became perfectly clear that these prayer-like songs were now unacceptable - to other teachers as well as the majority of parents.
What made this happen?
Sure, I understand that not everyone believes in God – or any god. Some people might believe in different gods that don’t fit the simple messages in these children’s songs. But it does seem a shame.
It’s my view that small children need a little prayer-like time in their day.
Days can be quite frantic and filled with stresses even for five-year-olds.
How much would it hurt them to be able to hold on to an idea of a god (of any sort, but essentially kind and caring) who is at least aware of the start and finish of their school day?
It’s a funny world.
During one of my last years of teaching, with older children in my class, they were learning some old, but lively ‘spirituals’ (don’t scream objections– it was on the music syllabus!) and one of the songs was,
“All night, all, day, angels watching over me I pray…”
I was surprised to receive a letter from a parent insisting that her child leave the room each time that particular song was sung.
I asked the girl why she didn’t want to sing that song and her answer floored me.
“We belong to the Church of God and we are not allowed to sing that sort of thing.”
I had become used to the anti-religious attitude of teachers and families by then but was confused about ‘The Church of God’ and why a song about angels was banned.
Perhaps there are precious few who agree with me, but this stern reaction to any sort of religion (in song) does seem a shame…and…..….
The beautiful Christmas songs written for children’s voices are now missing from most of today’s schools. No more dressing up for a ‘Nativity Play’.
I fully accept the modern day attitude that religion is a no-go area in schools.
But I can’t help thinking it’s a bit sad.
I choose to comment on social issues and write creatively on a variety of subjects - for a variety of audiences.