The advance publicity for one of these publications opens with the excellent question: "What is citizenship?" There has been much scratching of heads on this one ever since the idea was mooted and citizenship was quickly taken up as a vital element of our nation's schooling. Although many schools have rightly worried about the practical implications of citizenship on timetables, resourcing and so on, the key question still comes back to what citizenship is and, perhaps, what we are trying to achieve with it. Each of these resources has its own views on this issue, and the authors should be congratulated for attempting to provide avision of citizenship rather than merely servicing it.
Philip Steele's book treats the subject as a serious academic study. It is attractive and professionally finished, and feels a bit like a geography textbook. The chapters use sensible headings such as "Economics and Power" and "Laws - who needs them?" The text is packed with information, but is pitched in an accessible way. I like the regular box features, which provide information or explain important ideas.
The guide to websites is also a sound plan in this increasingly ICT-literate world. If I have a quibble, it would be with the activities. Some are engaging and purposeful, while others are simply rhetorical questions or urgings to "find out aboutI". Steele has a clear view of what citizenship is, and good ideas about how to construct a course on it. Many teachers would appreciat the author's ideas on what to do with it in class.
Alan Combes, in 21st Century Citizen, is not at all shy about putting forward his view of how to teach the course. The front cover of the pupil booklet is inspired, and will entice pupils to look at it. The price is also attractive, but at pound;3.99 you can't expect the polished presentation of Philip Steele's book.
Combes takes citizenship primarily from a PSHE and moral issues standpoint, but there is still a lot of information about areas such as the economy, human rights, and many others. There are lots of fun illustrations, but also a lot of text, some of which is quite heavy going. There is no doubt that the author sees the teacher pack as essential. While it does contain useful additional information sheets, its real value lies in its sound teaching advice, obviously rooted in experience. Most hard-pressed teachers will be grateful for this as much as for the content of the book and the pack.
My favourite of the three resources is David Hicks's Citizenship for the Future. It is a handbook, about one-third of which provides help to teachers, about two-thirds containing materials for use with pupils in the classroom. Its focus is primarily on global and development issues, and it does exactly what it says on the front cover. It focuses on the future of the planet. By examining what this future might be like, it inevitably involves students in looking at the world as it currently is. It's a clever and engaging device, but it is also backed up by sound practical advice to the teacher and helpful materials for students.
Whatever your vision, and the vision of your institution, for teaching citizenship it is important that such a vision exists. All three resources could help develop a vision, or implement an existing one.