I expect this post may actually draw some criticism from various quarters. I am though decided, after seeing (or enduring) the much-hyped Royal Wedding in my country yesterday, to state an opinion in regards to the word, concept, idea, which was seen in abundance yesterday… TRADITION.
Growing up in Britain you have a weight of tradition that is seen in the very fabric of our society. We see it in the medieval based nobility that has money, patronage, connections with the ancient” Universities (Oxbridge) and the fact that there is a built in subservience to these outmoded institutions amongst many people who yesterday were to be seen waving Union Jack flags and dancing in the streets to celebrate the wedding of a very ordinary couple whose nuptials are no more significant or indeed important than those of a young couple getting married in a Registry Office in Stockport today!
This weight of “tradition” can give a society a “glue” that allows it to weather difficult times..but it also acts as a barrier to progress. We use the word tradition to look backwards to some “golden age” where everyone knew their place and there was a defined hierarchy in society.
I see the word tradition used so often in the ongoing debate over education. Michael Gove and many like him seem to believe that if we go back the learning of a narrow curriculum based on good Kings and Queens and some hazy concept of a happy “Merrie Englande” we will create the kind of education that will fit our children for life in the 21st century global village. If we teach Languages and have a good grounding in the sciences then we are preparing our children for a world where they need to have collaborative, problem-solving capabilities.
Maybe the most telling criticism that I made to my Royalist wife watching yesterday’s global media event, was that the ceremony could have taken place almost intact at any time in the last hundred years. There were the bright uniforms. the singing of Blake’s “Jerusalem” (which I always find ironic given the words), the trumpet fanfares and the medieval form of words. The message was that all is right in our view of the world which has 21st century people with their mobile phones hidden from view in their morning suits and hugely expensive personally designed gowns.
We are though in the 21st century and we inhabit a world of major problems but great potential. I would rather look forward towards the changed society that our technology is bringing about and not harp on the past and look back with a wistful feeling that everything was somehow perfect then when “everyone knew their place”.
Yesterday was disappointing to me because I can see the way that “tradition” can act as a support for those who want to halt or turn back “progress”. I am not saying that change is easy and understand the need for people to hold onto something that they think they understand and that defines them but our future does not lie in our past and the best we can do for our children is to make them fit to function in the changed environment of the 21st century and not the world of their great-grandparents!