Ruth Gledhill reports in The Times that according to a survey conducted by Theos, a London-based religious think tank, most adults know certain key elements of the Nativity story, but only 22% new details such as the flight to Egypt and the massacre of the Innocents. Also telling was that the younger respondents were, the less they knew. Of the 18-24 age group, only 7% knew all of the details.
This bears up with my own experience. When I moved into teaching not so many years ago, more Year 7s (the first year of secondard school) had familiarity with the Nativity than today. Each successive year brings in a new crop of kids that know less than the year before.
I think this is down to several factors. First, Religious Education is getting less and less emphasis at the primary school level, because of the increasing emphasis of standardised test performance. Schools are focusing very much on the three Rs, even though studies are showing that no actual progress is being made.
The primary RE curriculum is more about feel-good self-image inflation and multi-culturalism. I have kids who have never met a Muslim or a Buddhist who can tell me much more about the life of Muhammad or Siddhartha than they can about the birth of Jesus.
Primary school teachers know less and less. Each new crop of teachers is a product of reduced fact-based RE and most haven’t even looked at it since they were 16 themselves. And I’m betting that even then for the most part they were complainers about having to study RE.