SO there we were watching The assassination of Jesse James by the coward Robert Ford when the definition of the word ‘assassination’ cropped up … as it would.
“Mother, what’s the difference between murder and assassination?” the young one asked.
“What do you think the difference is?” I asked back.
“No idea. That’s why I asked you,” she said.
“Okay. Think. What do you know about the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand?” I asked, trying to shake up the information in her brain that’s been left to fall to the bottom like sediment in a bottle of wine.
“Franz Ferdinand … are they the band who said that they wanted to make records that girls could dance to?” my daughter answered, her brow all wrinkled with concentration.
“Yes, indeed, Franz Ferdinand is the name of a band, but they’re called after the famous archduke, whose assassination led to the outbreak of WWI. He was from Austria, you know,” I said, pedantically.
“Austria? Sure Austria isn’t even a country,” she said, snorting with derision.
“Please, please, please tell me that you’re joking. You must know where Austria is,” I said, looking at her.
Realising her mistake, she chose the right to remain silent.
Now, if my daughter was a little one in primary school and learning only basic history and geography, her lack of knowledge would be understandable. But my young one is 15 years’ old and just weeks away from sitting the junior cert – or the JC, as she calls it.
Back in my day, JC stood for Jesus Christ, but not for her. Religion is a complete anathema to her. Although she recently announced the conversion from Catholicism to Buddhism, she has no clue at all about it. (I think that she’s drawn to it because she loves collecting little statues of the pot-bellied guru.)
She’s actually studying religion for the junior cert. I was faintly surprised that it was on the curriculum and I thought that this was a great idea because she would learn about different beliefs and cultures; that it would help her to grow up without vicious prejudices and racism.
Instead, she’s declared that she “hates religion class”.
“Honestly, Mother, it’s complete bullsh*t. The teacher is awful,” she said, appealing to me to let her drop it as an exam subject.
“Please don’t blame the teacher for your lack of interest,” I replied. “You’re too old to be spoon-fed by anyone. It’s up to you to learn. It’s your responsibility.”
“I would learn except all she does is talk about sex,” the young one shot back.
“Sex? In religion class? Really?” I raised an eyebrow.
“Honestly, Ma, that’s all Ms Moore talks about. It’s sooo boring, listening to her witter on and on about it,” she whinged.
One evening after dinner a few days later, when I was nicely relaxed and enjoying a cup of tea, she handed me an exam paper.
“What’s this?” I asked, suspiciously.
“My religion exam. I failed, so you have to sign it,” she answered, knowing that she was walking into a whole quagmire.
I glanced at the top of the sheet and saw that sex-obsessed Ms Moore had scrawled an ‘F’ on it.
My daughter hadn’t just failed the test;, she completely flunked it. If she’d even written ‘JC is alive and well and living in County Carlow’ like you’d see on a bumper sticker, she would have scored a better grade.
With just weeks left to the junior cert, there’s really only one course of action left: to light a candle and pray for the best.