Whilst Richard Dawkins’ godlessness is deliberate and intentioned – he reaches his atheist position out of considered internal debate – Michael Gove’s is the result of internal incoherence. Here, for example, on the subject of using open source principles in curriculum development, he is clearly moving in the right direction, as he describes current IT training in schools as “so 19th century”:
Speaking at the BETT show for educational technology in London, Michael Gove, described the current programme of information and communications technology (ICT) taught in schools, as ‘harmful and dull’.
It is to be replaced by an ‘open source’ curriculum that will created by both university professors and the technology industry. The Education Secretary will open a consultation on what the new curriculum should teach next week.
And yet, in practically the same breath, he refuses to take the opportunity that spreading the Word of God could offer to a truly open source mentality. Witness the current state of copyright for the Authorised Version of the King James Bible (the bold is mine):
It is often mistakenly thought that the Authorized Version is out of copyright. In fact, the Authorized Version is actually under United Kingdom Crown Copyright, though this is not enforced outside the United Kingdom. The rights to the Authorized Version are held by the British Crown under perpetual Crown copyright. Publishers are licensed to reproduce the Authorized Version under letters patent. In England, Wales and Northern Ireland the letters patent are held by the Queen’s Printer, and in Scotland by the Scottish Bible Board. The office of Queen’s Printer has been associated with the right to reproduce the Bible for centuries, the earliest known reference coming in 1577. In the 18th century all surviving interests in the monopoly were bought out by John Baskett. The Baskett rights descended through a number of printers and, in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the Queen’s Printer is now Cambridge University Press, who inherited the right when they took over the firm of Eyre & Spottiswoode in 1990.
Other royal charters of similar antiquity grant Cambridge University Press and Oxford University Press the right to produce the Authorized Version independently of the Queen’s Printer. In Scotland theAuthorized Version is published by Collins under licence from the Scottish Bible Board. The terms of the letters patent prohibit any other than the holders, or those authorised by the holders, from printing, publishing or importing the Authorized Version into the United Kingdom. The protection that the Authorized Version, and also the Book of Common Prayer, enjoy is the last remnant of the time when the Crown held a monopoly over all printing and publishing in the United Kingdom.
Just imagine the impact Gove could really have had if he’d treated the Word of God with the same democratic consideration as he has cared to afford the IT curriculum. To be honest, it could be argued that both form a comparably complex body of knowledge and influence in our latterday society which really should not be underestimated. Yet, to use one of his own phrases, Gove has chosen to use “so 19th century” distribution systems to share knowledge which supposedly came down from God Him- or Herself – when he could’ve chosen to open source, copyleft and web-distribute the the most accomplished and beautiful translation of the Bible the English-speaking world has ever known.
But no. Instead, whilst giving IT teachers the right and obligation to devise their own freely shareable curriculums, he refuses to retire the secular world’s hold over making money out of God’s teachings.
And that, truly, is a perfect example of the most godless approach to government communication we’ve seen for quite a while.