Bibles commissioned by Michael Gove and distributed to every state school in the country have a direct reference to him on the spine, Political Scrapbook can exclusively reveal. In an act of breathtaking hubris, the tomes bear the prominent wording “Presented by the Secretary of State for Education”.

The year head of a state-funded Christian high school told this blog:

“We all had a good laugh when it arrived. The only person referenced on the spine of a King James Bible should be King James I.”

Having been informed that the use of public funds for his vanity project was unacceptable, the 400th anniversary King James Bibles were finally freed from their warehouse imprisonment at a cost of £370,000 by numerous Tory donors — including sponsorship from, erm, CarpetRight magnate Lord Harris.

While the web page to which Gove directs educators in a covering letter contains none of the promised classroom materials, teachers have been left scratching their heads as to the educational value of the initiative, with one telling the Guardian:

“I work in an inner-city primary school and there’s no way that our children are going to be reading and understanding the kind of English this Bible is written in.”

“Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.” Proverbs 16:18.

  1. Robert Cragg says:

    Presumably Gove was motivated to promote this project when he found out that Gideon had the hotel market sewn up.

  2. The comment from the Guardian is complete horse crap. The King James Bible is written in the same iambic pentameter of Shakespeare. Are we insulting inner-city kids to the extent that we think none of them are capable of passing their GCSEs, because most are going to have to understand at least one of his plays if they are.

  3. The staff at Downhills may be interested to learn that Gove’s decision to give their school to the Harris foundation might be partially inspired by this.

  4. @ Michael, I think you’ve failed to notice it specifies primary school, students don’t tend to study Shakespeare or take their GCSEs until they reach secondary school.

  5. Surely the point of the Bible is to allow people to learn about God and Christianity – I’m not implying they should be converted but children should learn about all religions – whilst this version is beautifully written it’s not accessable – there’s numerous childrens and young peoples versions of the Bible available.

  6. Sandra is right, the Bible is not in iambic pentameter…..actually Shakespeare doesn’t use it all that much either, he uses blank verse….and sometimes prose!!
    HOWEVER, Michael does have a point in that he’s trying to convey that we should ALL have access to the literature that has shaped our culture…., and no, the kids aren’t going to understand it if the teachers tell them they aren’t…..this is always the problem, isn’t it? Suppose the teachers HELP THEM TO UNDERSTAND IT?? But I suppose that would require an entirely different mind-set…..

    BTW, I’m an atheist, but I think we should all have a working knowledge of the Bible, in order to understand the art, literature and music of the past 2.000 years….even to understand some of the idioms of the language we speak today.

  7. Bibles should not be distributed to primary school children (actually any children) because this book is full of myths and fairy tales. There is a place for an analysis of why people adopt (fall for) religion in a study of the history of all religions (including Zeus and that lot) when the are capable of understanding. The timing of this has to be particularly well chosen as it is with mathematical concepts such as Algebra and indeed may scientific concepts including what a scientific theory involves.
    In any event having “Ministry of Education” is a complete non-no, the state should be – see today’s story about Norway – secular.

    Be Well

  8. Gwilym Selwood says:

    My working knowledge of nonsense is that it is just nonsense. Do I have to read the Sun every day to know what is in it ? I know on an emotional level that Pierra De la Francesca’s pictures and Bach’s keyboard works are beautiful. What more is required? Does art really have to be understood to be appreciated? If so, how much garbage shall we fill ourselves with in order to do so? HOw would we know we “understood” the garbage at the end? Given that other culture exists, wouldn’t we be simply wasting our time?

  9. The subtext of this reveals a great deal about Gove and the Tories: “my ideology is the right ideology and you will comply.”

    They cannot be voted out of office soon enough.

  10. As a retired primary school teacher brought up as Christian and converted to ‘practising’ Buddhist I would like to point out the following.
    * I think the fact that Michael Gove has his rank and name of the spine of the book speaks volumes, is it not all about vanity and self promotion?
    *No doubt the cost of these bibles could have bought many more much needed resources for some of these inner city schools, ask the majority of teachers!
    * Primary is from the age of 4 years so how many children would understand the complex adult language in such a book without illustrations to assist them, infant children need visual stimulus for learning to be real and meaningful hence the use of BIG picture books in the classroom.
    * I find it so hypocritical and totally delusional because here we have a minister who belongs to a coalition party who are causing untold misery and hardship for some of the most vulnerable and needy people in our society through the severe cutbacks, and the destruction of the one true National Treasure we should be protecting NHS and Welfare State.
    * Jesus Christ taught about healing the sick and ministering unto the needy whatever their status.Is this Government a good example of such religious teaching? I am not normally a political person however I feel quite incensed because what this Government is doing is creating a huge class divide as per the Victorian era and replacing compassion with competition and corporate greed, the poor get poorer the rich get richer. (FACT) That is why this supposed generous gesture is hollow and inappropriate and quite frankly an insult. This is the same minister that suggested the people of this country could pay for a new royal yacht for the Queen when the working poor are struggling to put a decent meal on the table with more and more families resorting to food banks and the elderly are afraid to switch the heating on. Get out there and live in the real world of the inner cities please and may be then you will understand.

  11. PS Michael
    Iambic Pentameter as I recall from my days studying drama at college is all about the rhythm of the words and I most certainly don’t think that would be a problem with children, as most children do enjoy rhyme and rhythm in learning, however it is the complexities of the language itself which is not accessible to most children now and would need a lot of explaining to some of the younger children in secondary school, so this BIBLE has limited use in schools and is therefore a total waste of money and to think Michael Gove originally wanted it to be funded from public money?!!!!

  12. I have a couple of observations here but I’ll preface them by saying I’m a wholehearted secularist who was appalled to hear of Gove’s use of his position to do this sneaky bit of Christian missionary work, I’m about a million miles to the left of him politically and find some of his educational ideas frankly dangerous. The thing about his self-promoting inscription on the spine I find pretty laughable.

    Anyway, on to the substance. Most strikingly, there is something very patronising and possibly even subtly racist about the idea that “inner-city” kids are somehow less able to understand the language of the King James Bible, or that works of English literature from 400 years ago are necessarily irrelevant to them. The implication is that little white Rupert at his prep school in the home counties might well take to all this obscure mediaeval stuff, but little black Jamelia at her run-down state primary in the East End of London had best stick to her times tables so she can one day aspire to count out the change at a Tesco checkout. It also reflects a typically British blindness to the linguistic capabilities of young children. Across the North Sea children can be taught a couple of foreign languages from an early age and achieve near-native proficiency, as you’ll know if you’ve spoken to a young Swede recently, while most British adults can barely muster a mangled “bonjour”. Given this, it is really not unreasonable to credit children, guided by a good teacher, with the capacity to comprehend slight variants of their own language, like that “thinketh he not?” is an old way of saying “doesn’t he think?”

    I did a scientific degree but I have a lifelong passion for language in part thanks to a great English teacher I had when I was eleven who used to go off-textbook whenever he could and tell us about Proto-Indo-European and English dialects and so on. One lesson in particular consisted of us reading aloud different versions of the same passage at different stages of the development of English to see how things had changed. The passage he picked was the Transfiguration scene from one of the gospels. He no doubt did this because the Bible has been repeatedly translated into English over the years and was easily available. There was no undercurrent of religious preaching in his lesson whatsoever, and I’m fairly certain he was not a Christian himself. He was just using a Bible passage as a convenient example text, and I’d happily do the same.

    I’d go further though. The King James Bible is a classic and influential work of literature which deserves a place in any decent library, and every school needs a decent library. The problem I have is that Gove has singled it out and issued it to every school as part of some misguided evangelical project to bolster the idea that this country out to regard Christianity as its moral bedrock, however few people turn up to church on a Sunday or believe in talking snakes and people rising from the dead. It is very much like the Gideons trying to put a Bible in every single hotel room. The trouble is though that too many atheists and secularists I come across throw the baby out with the bathwater and conclude that because some people want to ram the Bible down our throats we ought to respond by disregarding it completely and pretending there is nothing to be gained from reading it.

    I regard the Bible as a fascinating and intriguing book, but an entirely human one. I think I have more familiarity with the Bible than the average Christian, and in fact I think reading it properly, not just the bits that get read out in church, is one of the best antidotes to believing it could possibly be the word of God. Biblical literacy has given me a deeper understanding of the cultures and historical periods that gave rise to it, and a great insight into the ideas and history of the last few thousand years. I would recommend familiarity with the Bible to anyone who wants to be educated. The fact that we don’t believe in Zeus and Odin these days is no reason to throw out Greek and Norse mythology or regard it as worthless nonsense, and the fact that I don’t believe in Yahweh and his magic superhero son doesn’t mean I have to take the attitude of the one of the commenters above that the Bible is utterly worthless garbage that ought never to be read again. So criticise Gove all you want, but don’t pretend the Bible, and its classic 17th century English incarnation, is something you never need to take a look at when you’re on the road to becoming a well-rounded educated person.

  13. Scottish schools fortunately aren’t burdened with this shit, because Gove is the English Secretary of State for Education. Michael Russell is our Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning. Presumably Wales and Northern Ireland also have their own arrangements.

    Thank god we don’t have Gove, the house elf.

  14. Brilliant idea, let’s focus on a tiny policy rather than looking at the bigger picture and seeing how Gove is improving our schools.

    Under labour, exams got easier and therefore the knowledge needed by students to do well became less. Schools had i believe 48 hours notice of an inspection so they could get rid of all the bad pupils and teachers and hire in good ones. People who are by no means high achievers became teachers and those who felt a passion for teaching were pushed out by the amount of paperwork. Gove’s educational policies have been some of the best that have come out of this coalition and it would be a travesty if they were driven out by people only afraid of change.

  15. @MedStud – Exams are not set by the government of the day. They are set by exam boards. That was true under Labour and is true now. This government hasn’t been in power long enough yet for the make-up of these boards to have changed radically, so your claims of radical change are what is commonly known as complete bollocks.

    Similarly, schools still have 48 hours notice for an inspection. If you believe that it is possible to hire new teachers within this time period, or that it is possible to hire pupils at all, I suggest you stop huffing the wallpaper. Even if they could, inspectors have access to a school’s records. If teachers have been fired at short notice, they will want to know the grounds for this (as will the teachers’ employment lawyers). If pupils have been suspended, they will want to know why and this suspension will be negatively commented upon in the inspection report. If troublesome pupils are just told not to show up, the school will probably fail the inspection on the grounds of poor attendance.

    Would you please learn something, anything, about what you want to talk about before inflicting your ill-informed opinions on others?

  16. Tanya Paton says:

    I am a Christian and an Occupy London protester, and I do not believe this initiative is anything but a waste of resources that could have been better spent elsewhere. This is a form of proselytising, and although I believe in religious education, I do not believe it should be anything other than that – education – learning about the diversity, differences and cultural and artistic aspects of religion, not as a form of trying to impose any religious beliefs on children.

  17. It has a flash binding, but the print quality is awful and the paper it is printed on reminds me of the shiny toilet paper they used to use in primary schools. Now there’s a use for it…

  18. “Shakespeare doesn’t use [iambic pentameter] all that much either, he uses blank verse” makes no sense: unrhymed iambic pentameter and blank verse are synonyms. Look it up.

  19. A few points:
    1. Most schools will already have a copy of the Bible, so this is clearly just a pointless political statement.
    2. Gove is sending out one copy per school, which is not going to be of any educational use whatsoever, so this is clearly just a pointless political statement.
    3. I agree that the Bible should be studied in school subjects such as Religious Education, along with the Qu’ran and the Torah and the other major holy books, but Gove isn’t sending any of these out, which could be taken as an attack on British multicultural values.
    4. Putting the reference to himself on the Bibles says a lot about the man.

  20. Does anyone have a copy of the Gove bible they’d be willing to give me? I need one for my MA studies.

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