Frank's faith has been restored by young children
After years of listening to grownups giving out hell about various matters on the radio, I very often need a serious injection of innocence and naivety.
That is why I get such a kick working with schoolchildren. In a world going steadily crazy because of texting and the excesses of technology, I have my faith restored in humanity by youngsters.
And what profound lesson have they taught me over 30 years? Simply this, be they Catholic or Protestant, it’s either growing up or grownups who destroy them.
I could pick any school, from Mizen to Malin, but one recent encounter with children has left a permanent glow, a school where the weans positively glowed with ideas and buzz with imagination.
A few hours there and I was convinced that my occasional pessimistic prognoses about future generations was way off kilter.
Here the weans love the sound of words - they savour the taste, the smell, the touch and sound of colour and, most importantly, they’re not afraid to be wrong! 2+2=4 might give the rest of us sleepless nights but children who appreciate imagination don’t care if it occasionally equals 5 or 7 – after all, grownups who are always convinced they are ‘right’ have invariably made a right hash of the world.
Some years ago, I was in a two teacher country school in Cavan and just before I departed, I decided to devote 5 minutes to a question and answer session about the day’s creativity – poetry and storytelling. “I’ve a question for you, mister,” volunteered one lad. “Fire away,” says I. “Where’d you get the tie, Mister?” he asked. The teacher put her head in her hands, but I just laughed and reminded her, “The child always speaks the truth.” In other words, he or she will ask what they consider the important question.
That is why our young people are not allowed to vote; not because they’re incapable of making an ‘adult’ decision but because we’re terrified that they’ll see through the bullshit, tell it like it is and might even demand standards of our elected representatives, like saying precisely what we mean, for example. And we can’t have that complication now, can we?
If all of you grownups reading this today had the opportunity – for the first time in your lives – to tell your loved ones or your employers what you really thought of them, how many of you would have a relationship or a job by tomorrow? Exactly! Not one of you.
Adults live a lie in order to maintain the veneer of civilisation – children are unencumbered by this protocol
One of my most vivid memories from boarding school is of a dear friend getting a right lashing from the leather strap because he tried to answer a question in the kind of way an innocent 12-year old might. The Maths teacher, a rather fierce Reverend, asked him “Stand up, ‘Maguire’, and tell the class what a right angled triangle is?”
Up he stood and uttered the immortal line, “Straight over and up, Father!” Five minutes later, as he hopped about the classroom with the ubiquitous sore arse, he looked at me with big innocent eyes and exclaimed, “Jesus, Galligan, it is straight over and up, isn’t it?”
He remained a close friend but has since sadly passed away….somehow or other, because of that incident, I felt I was in the company of ‘real’ genius, not the type who got straight A’s but the decentskins who say it as best they can.
Maybe that is why, ever since, I have found my greatest solace in the company of those with the big innocent eyes. Long may they live but may they never grow up.
As a child, my son Kelan referred to the ‘yock’ for the TV as the ‘remote patrol’. I never corrected him as his description was not only apt but more accurate in these days of multi-channel dross.
In a school some years ago – while facilitating a Creative Writing class – a young lad complained to me that modern movies had too many ‘special defects’. He too was deadly accurate.
The following are examples of History exam answers which probably relegated the poor weans to a failure mark but to whom I would have given 100% for imagination. They restore my faith in humanity:
Without the Greeks, we wouldn't have history. The Greeks invented three kinds of columns - Corinthian, Doric and Ironic. They also had myths. A myth is a female moth.
One myth says that the mother of Achilles dipped him in the River Stynx until he became intolerable. Achilles appears in 'The Illiad', by Homer.
Homer also wrote the 'Oddity', in which Penelope was the last hardship that Ulysses endured on his journey. Actually, Homer was not written by Homer but by another man of that name.
Socrates was a famous Greek teacher who went around giving people advice. They killed him. Socrates died from an overdose of wedlock.
In the Olympic Games, Greeks ran races, jumped, hurled the biscuits, and threw the java. The reward to the victor was a coral wreath.
The government of Athens was democratic because the people took the law into their own hands. There were no wars in Greece, as the mountains were so high that they couldn't climb over to see what their neighbours were doing. When they fought the Persians, the Greeks were outnumbered because the Persians had more men.
Eventually, the Romans conquered the Geeks.
History call people Romans because they never stayed in one place for very long. At Roman banquets, the guests wore garlic in their hair.
Julius Caesar extinguished himself on the battlefields of Gaul. The Ides of March killed him because they thought he was going to be made king. Nero was a cruel tyranny who would torture his poor subjects by playing the fiddle to them.
Then came the Middle Ages. King Alfred conquered the Dames, King Arthur lived in the Age of Shivery, King Harold mustarded his troops before the Battle of Hastings, Joan of Arc was canonized by George Bernard Shaw, the Magna Carta provided that no free man should be hanged twice for the same offence.
In midevil times most of the people were alliterate.
The greatest writer of the time was Chaucer, who wrote many poems and verse and also wrote literature.
Another tale tells of William Tell, who shot an arrow through an apple while standing on his son's head.
The Renaissance was an age in which more individuals felt the value of their human being. Martin Luther was nailed to the church door at Wittenberg for selling papal indulgences. He died a horrible death, being excommunicated by a bull.
Gutenberg invented the Bible. Sir Walter Raleigh is a historical figure because he invented cigarettes. Another important invention was the circulation of blood.
Sir Francis Drake circumcised the world with a 100-foot clipper.
Henry VIII found walking difficult because he had an abbess on his knee.
When Queen Elizabeth exposed herself before her troops, they all shouted 'hurrah.' Then her navy went out and defeated the Spanish Armadillo.
The greatest writer of the Renaissance was William Shakespear. Shakespear never made much money and is famous only because of his plays. He lived in Windsor with his merry wives, writing tragedies, comedies and errors.
Writing at the same time as Shakespear was Miquel Cervantes. He wrote 'Donkey Hote'. The next great author was John Milton. Milton wrote 'Paradise Lost.' Then his wife died and he wrote 'Paradise Regained.' During the Renaissance America began.
Christopher Columbus was a great navigator who discovered America while cursing about the Atlantic. His ships were called the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Fe.
My own favourite story actually happened in a school in West Donegal in 2005 when a young lad informed me that “My great-granduncle was on the Titanic. He survived, but when he came home to Dungloe, he ‘drownded’ in the bath!”