Citizenship

23rd March 2001 at 00:00
GOOD THINKING: Education for Citizenship and Moral Responsibility. By Ted Huddleston and Don Rowe. Books 1-3 pound;20 each. Evans Education and the Citizenship Foundation. Tel: 020 7367 0500

Citizenship is not only making curriculum managers nervous, but could also prove to be a battleground for various curriculum interests competing for the time available within the umbrella of the statutory requirements. Will citizenship reduce teenage pregnancies, bring young voters flocking to the polls, lower youth alcohol abuse and achieve the other outcomes eagerly hoped for by some of its promoters?

These three books were developed by the Citizenship Foundation's Moral Education in Secondary Schools Project. Rather than adopt the well-worn "'big issues" model for tackling abortion, euthanasia, capital punishment, etc, they aim to provide "a systematic introduction to the skills, knowledge and understanding which make moral argument and debate possible".

The grander aim is of "equipping young people for effective participation in the shared moral life of the civic community". It is the "public discourse" model for moral education. To this end the same thorough introduction is provided at the start of each volume for the teacher who may not buy all three. Much user-friendly photocopiable material follows within a common format: aim; useful words; background; the lesson; other thins to think about.

Story is one medium used to identify the skills. Arguments and principles underlying many commonly asserted positions are identified.

This series goes deeper than dealing with moral issues in a trivial or tabloid manner. The books are aware of the dangers of indoctrination and the desire for neutral chairing and a balanced approach. However, indoctrination is a danger not only in what is presented to pupils, but also in what is withheld. The ways in which spiritualities and religions impact on moral judgments are peripheral in these texts (and in "The Great Condom Dispute" in Book 3 they appear as stereotypes), so that a secular "city" seems to be the vision.

Children with religious allegiances may be in a minority in this country, but they are too big a minority to be ignored. The right of all children to know about how religions impact on moral thinking has been disappointingly omitted. Of course it is not entirely fair to blame the series. There are big questions unanswered in the whole citizenship debate, not least, what is the "city" for which we are busily producing citizens? Is it the local community? England? The UK? Europe? The World? Is it The City of God, Augustine's forgotten blockbuster that stands behind much of western civilisation or perhaps Plato's Republic? If we do not know the city, how can we "produce" the citizens?


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