EDITORIAL : Did you hear about the Canadian teacher suspended for playing the XTC song “Dear God” to his 6th and 7th graders? No, it isn’t a joke: John Orme of Ontario asked the kids in his poetry class to examine and elaborate on lyrics that doubt an Almighty exists amid such worldwide suffering.
Many would agree that “Dear God” is an incredibly powerful, provocative — and, for some, disturbing — song, with lyrics such as:
Did you make disease and the diamond blue?
Did you make mankind after we made you…
And the devil too? ”
It was enough to convince some record store owners not to stock the album it eventually landed on — which, of course, only made the British band’s tune even more popular here in the States.
XTC mastermind Andy Partridge once said the song was inspired by “Dear God” books containing letters from children questioning the existence of a superior being. The then-8-year-old daughter of a friend of rock icon Todd Rundgren even sang the opening verse and closing line (a boy lip-synchs for the video).Jerry DeMarco Publisher/Editor
That still doesn’t make it fodder for a poetry class of kids who’ve barely grasped the fundamentals of education, much less deep concepts that question the foundations of certain faiths.
The fact that atheists have taken up the teacher’s cause — claiming that he merely gave the pupils “the tools of critical thinking” — makes the entire incident all the more distasteful.
Seeing as how we don’t burst kids’ bubbles about Santa and the Easter Bunny, maybe it’s time to add God to the list, whether you believe or not. I mean, there’s a time and a place for everything — and to my way of thinking, 6th or 7th grade isn’t it when it comes to Christopher Hitchens-styled skepticism of faith.
That it reduced a 12-year-old girl to tears tells how entirely inappropriate “Dear God” is for children that young, even if hers was the only parent who complained.
The lyrics are subtitled in the video…
To think, “Dear God” started out as a B-side but made its way onto the charts and eventually was included on the New Wave band’s “Skylarking” album amid the uproar. Partridge frankly said he didn’t like it: “Human belief is too big a beast to bring to the floor in such a short time.” He also called the string section “mock Gershwin.” Still, it was the song that introduced a marvelously talented band some critics considered on par with the Beatles to many American listeners.
So while the teacher clearly was out of line with this move, he has brought a provocative song back into the public consciousness 25 years after it was released. And now he has to face the music, as school officials decide whether to keep the educator on or wash their hands of him.
What would Jesus do?