Friday 23 August 2019

Students rebel at learning sounds of the 70s

Mark O'Meara was unimpressed by the changes to the music course for the Junior Cert MARTIN NOLAN
Mark O'Meara was unimpressed by the changes to the music course for the Junior Cert MARTIN NOLAN

John Walshe Education Editor

FORGET Amy Winehouse and Duffy -- if you really want to catch up with the all-new music syllabus for the Junior Cert then check out John Denver. Yes, that's right, the late John Denver who died in 1997 -- when the current first-year Junior Cert students were but mere toddlers.

In fact, three songs by the middle-of-the-road American musician, including 'Leaving on a Jet Plane' (written in 1967), feature on the draft syllabus which is out for consultation.

The three join other up-to-the-minute hits on the newly 'rebalanced' curriculum, such as Abba's 'Dancing Queen' (recorded in 1975), Simon and Garfunkel's 'The Sound of Silence' (1965) and 'Always on My Mind', which was a hit for Brenda Lee in 1972.

Also suggested are John Lennon's 'Imagine', which dates from 1971, and the 1972 Rod Stewart hit 'Sailing'.

The most recently recorded popular hits proposed are U2's 'I still haven't found what I'm looking for' (1987) and 'Down to the River to Pray', the traditional song sung by Alison Krauss in the Coen Brother's comedy 2000 film 'Oh Brother, Where art Thou'.

But if you really want to impress the course committee that drew up what it calls "a modern streamlined syllabus", then you'd best brush up on 'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang' (filmed in 1968) for your stage musical.


The 'popular' music section of the revamped curriculum was described last night as "fab ... for 1975" by the Youth Work Ireland, whose spokesman, Michael McLoughlin, suggested, tongue-in-cheek, that flares and side-locks were probably still obligatory for the people of the course committee of the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment.

"Maybe we could add the Nolan Sisters and Barry Manilow while we're at it," he joked. "On a more serious note, it demonstrates how distant the management of the education system is from the young people who are its ultimate end-users.

"We in Youth Work Ireland have recently completed a nationwide contemporary music project called 'Seven Steps Up'. Here, young people played their own music and selected who would represent them.

"Maybe the NCCA could listen and learn to what young people are doing and saying."

The NCCA course committee comprises representatives of the teacher unions, school managerial bodies, the subject association, the Department of Education and Science, and the State Examinations Commission.

However, the draft is open for consideration and the NCCA has promised to compile the feedback and post a report on its website (

The course committee will then meet to make whatever changes are necessary.

l While Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is suggested for ordinary level, the suggested extract for higher level is the 'Les Miserables' song 'Master of the House', a rousing drinking song with some bawdy verses including:

Master of the house?

Isn't worth me spit!

'Comforter, philosopher'

-- and lifelong XXXX!

Cunning little brain

Regular Voltaire

Thinks he's quite a lover

But there's not much there

What a cruel trick of nature

Landed me with such a louse

God knows how I've lasted

Living with this b...... in the house!

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