Recently I came across an article in the Daily Telegraph (5 October 2010) about a report entitled The Future of Generation Y.� It is a study of religion, published by the Church of England and looking at people born after 1982.� It referred to 'a faded cultural memory' of Christianity and suggested that 'the chain of Christian memory' had become 'eroded' in Britain.� 'It is undoubtedly the case that the Christian memory is very faint and in many respects Generation Y are a largely unstoried and memoryless generation,' the study said.

There are some interesting phrases in those quotes – 'a faded cultural memory', a 'chain of memory eroded', and 'a largely unstoried and memoryless generation'.

The report used these phrases in relation to the religious and spiritual life of a younger generation in Britain but they could also be used in a cultural context about many young people here in Ulster.� There are young people coming through our education system today who know little about their history and heritage.� They are 'largely unstoried and memoryless', they have 'only a faded cultural memory'�and the chain of cultural memory has been eroded.

That is why it is so important that all our schools implement the cultural rights of the children who attend them.� Some sectors within our education system do provide a rich engagement with the history and the heritage of the community from which they come but that is not the case in all schools.

I remember being at an event in a Roman Catholic secondary school and it was reported that the school had staged a play about Robert Emmet, who staged an abortive rebellion in Ireland in 1803.� The governors and the teachers had no qualms about staging such a play and they considered it perfectly appropriate.� It was part of the political history of their community and they were exploring it, if not commemorating it or celebrating it, through drama.� As I thought about it,�I asked myself if it was likely that a controlled school in a Protestant and Unionist community would consider staging a play or similar event to explore the Siege of Derry or the Glorious Revolution.� I suspect not – certainly it is something I have never come across in all my years of involvement with education.

Children emerging from the Roman Catholic sector or the Irish medium sector do so with a strong sense of their cultural identity, whereas children in�Protestant and Unionist communities often emerge 'unstoried and memoryless'.�

That situation was confirmed for me on Saturday night when I met a community-based cultural development worker whom I had not seen for some time.� He had been working with young men in a loyalist community in Belfast and he spoke of their lack of knowledge about the 'stories' and 'memories' of their community.� Yes thise 'stories' and 'memories' are passed on to some extent through the home but the school and the media also have a role to play.

The same is true as regards traditional music.� Most Roman Catholic schools have an Irish�traditional music group but how many schools in Protestant and Unionist communities have a fife and drum group, or a flute,�accordion or pipe band?� With the best will in the world, not too many young people get excited about learning to play the recorder but many young people will devote a considerable amount of their own time to learning to play music in the ranks of a band.� That is why the introduction of lambeg and fife tuition in a number of secondary schools, such as Belfast Boys' Model School,�is something that deserves to be replicated more widely.� It has already happened in a few schools, with very positive results,�and there is absolutely no reason why it cannot happen in others as well.� The Lambeg drum is of course Ulster's unique musical instrument!

When people have a good understanding of their history and heritage, they have a cultural confidence that can enable them to engage more confidently and willingly with others, and that must surely be our aim for the future.


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