Back in 2005, I did a post about a “Home/School Agreement” which our eldest son’s primary school had asked us to get him to sign, giving his agreement to abide by the school’s “Golden Rules” (basically: be nice to one another). As he was only four years old at the time, I was reluctant to make him sign a quasi-legal form of this nature, however blameless the rules might be. As I said at the time:
Will his signature on the form be used against him (“You’ve broken your agreement”)? If not, then the exercise is pointless. If so, then it’s reprehensible.
In the end, my wife and I signed on our son’s behalf, and we’ve just done the same with the same form for our middle son, who is due to start at the same school later this year. However, I’ve always had a nagging sense of wondering whether I wasn’t just being a bit weird and fanatical to be bothering about this. Why not “just sign the damn form, John”, as Revd Lovejoy might put it?
So I was relieved and overjoyed – literally punching the air in delight – to hear the following lyrics from Chumbawamba’s song, “The Land of Do What You’re Told”:
Look at the small print: it’s what we agreed –
Sign your name before we teach you how to read.
I don’t know whether Chumbawamba had this sort of “agreement” for primary-schoolers in mind (though they are now quite common, I gather), but it fits perfectly. And then the chorus puts a name to what this is about:
This is the land, the Land of Do What You’re Told,
The Land of the Free: if you don’t leave the fold.
Smile a little wider as you’re waiting to be sold,
This is the land, the Land of Do What You’re Told.
That’s it. Do what you’re told: “sign your name before we teach you how to read”, give us your fingerprints before we give you a library card. Comply. Conform. This is just how it is, kids. This is how the world works.
Do listen to the whole of that song, by the way. Last.fm has the full version available as streaming audio. Great tune, great lyrics, and a hilarious chant at the end (from 3’05” onwards) which points a new way for union militancy in the age of reality TV.
Incidentally, Chumbawamba’s recent folk-based albums (A Singsong and a Scrap and The Boy Bands Have Won) have been one of the musical discoveries of the year for me. Lyrics that mix wit and political passion, combined with wonderful tunes and harmony singing. If all you’ve heard by them is “Tubthumping” then those albums will come as quite a surprise, but a very pleasant one.