Sophie Bunce: The national anthem is “an outdated means”

The national anthem is an outdated means of encouraging unity through patriotism. In a post-Brexit world, we sing of “our gracious” and “noble queen” in attempt to present a united kingdom, a country bound together by our monarch. But like paying with an old £20 note, or putting diesel in a petrol car, teaching the national anthem in schools isn’t quite the right fix. I see what they’re trying to do but it’s not going to work. We are too far gone.

Written in 1619, the sentiments expressed in the national anthem refer to a version of Britain school children will not recognise. Despite the song being updated to “Queen” instead of “King,” the anthem sings of a country centred around the monarchy. But children are unfamiliar with living in a reign that would make or break their lives. It doesn’t matter to them who sits on the throne.

In 2018, the Queen makes a larger impact in The Crown via Netflix. I appreciate and value the role of the monarchy in Britain, but it would be foolish to think it hasn’t changed since the 1600s. We have updated our views and it’s time to update our attitude to unity.

The national anthem should be taught to kids the same way as table manners- in their own home. Using school time to teach it is a waste of teachers and children’s time. There has not been a day in my life when I have needed the national anthem but I have needed Pythagoras. As schools are overworked and underfunded, with The Times reporting teachers applications falling by a third in 2017, resources are stretched to their limits. We need teachers and we need cold hard cash. We don’t need a song. Spending time on the national anthem is not only pointless but it’s an unreasonable demand on limited and valuable time.

The alternative? Do we need one? If it’s unity we want, we need a contemporary approach that doesn’t champion patriotism. It would be more appropriate for us all to sing the FRIENDS theme tune than God save the Queen. I’m sure people know the words.

Patriotism isn’t an awful trait to have but clinging onto it fails to show an awareness of Britain’s progression. The national anthem was designed to be sung by a nation and for their monarchs right to rule. But as that becomes increasingly less important perhaps we should focus on teaching the kids their times tables instead.


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May 2022
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