Dot Wordsworth

Mind your language | 21 February 2009

Dot Wordsworth looks over the rainbow

Text settings

A bright rainbow on a wall caught my eye, and the building behind it turned out to belong to the Department for Children, Schools and Families. On its website, the department has a cheerful image of helicopters and cranes constructing a rainbow. When I add that the home page is headed by a picture of a black boy in a wheelchair, you can see the lie of the land.

What do they think they mean by their rainbow emblem? In recent years it has been the contested property of campaigners for peace and for homosexual activity. There is something called Broken Rainbow LGBT Domestic Violence Service. ‘LGBT’ stands for ‘lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender’. The service does not provide domestic violence, but intends to help people suffering from it. A choir in Brighton for lesbians and gay people is called Rainbow Chorus. A fundraising event for Stonewall is called Rainbow Rampage, ‘the world’s first gay-centric motorsports event’. One gets the drift. Indeed the rainbow is used as a useful flag for pubs and even taxi companies catering for the homosexual market.

But when the government’s TeacherNet online resource suggests a rainbow-focused school assembly for primary-school children, the theme is not homosexuality (as it might well be), but world peace day (21 September). Five pots of different coloured paint will be useful in this assembly, it says. The DCSF manages six colours on its own rainbow (Richard of York gave battle in ...’), so I’m not sure which would be left out at the assembly — blue for battle, presumably. But the teacher is expected to point to the rainbow and say: ‘This logo is the symbol for this day of peace, to show that all of us need peace in our lives.’ I can’t see how it shows anything of the sort, but what really annoys me is the ‘recommended resource’ of John Lennon’s song ‘Imagine’, a wicked piece of work beginning, ‘Imagine there’s no Heaven’, and going on to suggest imagining ‘no religion too’. A fine song for school religious assembly.

‘Welcome to the new corporate branding,’ says the department’s explanation of its own designer rainbow, which somehow expresses the department’s purpose: ‘to make England [not Scotland or Northern Ireland and certainly not Wales] the best place in the world for children’. This purpose can apparently ‘be summed up as “building the rainbow”. This brand helps us communicate the message that everything we do is part of delivering that vision; building the brighter future we want for children.’ God help them.