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Deadly serious

The usually quiet class of 16-year-olds erupted. "It's so unfair," "How can she say that," shouted the girls. The boys sat in stunned silence.

The subject under discussion is capital punishment. The class at St Philip Howard Roman Catholic High School in West Sussex has already watched a videoclip of Michael Johnson, who has spent 11 years on death row in Texas and is hours away from receiving a lethal injection. Now they are watching a clip of the wife of Johnson's "victim" saying that it is right for him to die.

"The clips are powerful and provocative," says David Fetteroll, head of citizenship.

David has been using video clips from a new interactive website aimed at teenagers, Truetube, as a starting point for discussion in citizenship classes. The content is not something they are likely to see elsewhere, he says: "Reading words doesn't mean much to some pupils. But to see real people speaking means they can empathise strongly."

David was surprised at his pupils' reaction to the Johnson clips. "The films galvanised their views and a lot of big issues came up, particularly as it was clear that Johnson was not the man who pulled the trigger. He committed suicide just 15 hours before he was due to be executed."

TrueTube aims to give teenagers over 16 the opportunity to get their views across. They can post opinions on the message boards and even upload their own video clips. Each week there are new topics under discussion. To find out more, visit:

Jan Trebilcock

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