The Burning of the School

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"The Burning of the School" (not an official title) is a parody of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic",[1] known and sung by schoolchildren throughout the United States and in some locations in the United Kingdom and Canada.

Like the Battle Hymn itself, the parody is sung to the tune of "John Brown's Body". In versions known to have appeared in print, the opening line always changes the original 'Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord' to 'Mine eyes have seen the glory of the burning of the school.' Also, the first line of the refrain, 'Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!', seems always to be followed in the parody by the line 'Teacher hit me with a ruler.' (A few versions have been collected that change 'Hallelujah' to 'What's it to ya?', but most leave the first line intact.)

The rest of the lyrics vary with time and place, but generally involve the children inflicting various types of mayhem on the school and its staff.

In their 1959 book The Lore and Language of Schoolchildren, the British folklorists Peter and Iona Opie recorded that 'Glory, glory hallelujah/Teacher hit me with a ruler' was frequently sung by children in Market Rasen, Lincolnshire. An eleven-year-old girl whom the Opies quoted on the subject identified the song as a parody of John Brown's Body. The Opies did not record whether the Market Rasen song had additional lyrics.[2]

The American indie band Death Cab for Cutie have been known to perform "The Burning of the School" at their concerts.

Tom Glazer and the Do-Re-Mi Children's Chorus recorded a version of this song under the title of "Battle Hymn of the Children". It was released as the B-side of their 1963 hit, "On Top of Spaghetti".

Sample lyrics[edit]

Typical lines are[3]

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the burning of the school
We have tortured all the teachers - we have broken all the rules
We ramrocked the offices and hung the principal
March on, third grade, march on!
Glory, glory, hallelujah
My teacher hit me with a ruler
I hid behind her door with a loaded .44
And the teacher don't teach no more!

Another variation has the following lyrics:

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the burning of the school
We have tortured every teacher - we have broken every rule
We plan to hang the principal and secretary too
Our troops are marching on!
Glory, glory, hallelujah
Teacher hit me with a ruler
Met her at the door with a loaded .44
And she bothered me no more!

There are many variations of this song, which nearly always leave the first two lines of the verse and chorus nearly intact and change the third, with some variations to the fourth.

Anthologies containing versions of the song[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Michael Dirda (November 6, 1988). "Where the Sidewalk Begins". The Washington Post. pp. p.16. 
  2. ^ Iona and Peter Opie, The Lore and Language of Schoolchildren. Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1959.
  3. ^ Tristan Clark (2007). Stick This in Your Memory Hole. p. 166. ISBN 0-9803351-2-4.