3rd November 2000 at 00:00
MORAL DILEMMAS SERIES. GENETIC ENGINEERING. By Sally Morgan. CRIME AND PUNISHMENT. By Philip Steele. A RIGHT TO LIFE - AND DEATH? By Kenneth Boyd. Evans. pound;11.99 each.

TWENTIETH CENTURY ISSUES SERIES. MEDICAL ETHICS. By Robert Snedden. CRIME AND PUNISHMENT. By Alison Brownlie. Wayland. pound;10.99 each.

WHAT'S AT ISSUE? SERIES. DRUGS AND YOU. By Bridget Lawless. RIGHT OR WRONG?. By Alexander Gray. ANIMAL RIGHTS. By Paul Wignall. PREJUDICE amp; DIFFERENCE. By Paul Wignall. RELATIONSHIPS. By Katrina Dunbar. CITIZENSHIP amp; YOU. By Katrina Dunbar. THE ENVIRONMENT amp; YOU. By Alexander Gray. Heinemann. pound;10.99 each.

The citizenship agenda is certainly ambitious. The aim, according to the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, is to create "an active and politically literate citizenry convinced that they can influence government and community affairs at all levels".

Partly this is about knowledge - what is the essential information a young person needs to be an effective citizen in the 21st century? And partly it is about skills - how can students participate in and serve their communities?

Many schools will already encourage involvement and reflection, perhaps through development of key skills and a clearly mapped programme of knowledge in PSHE and across other subjects. But citizenship implies more than this.

While at key stages 1 and 2 there will be no requirement for end of key stage assessment, schools will be expected to keep records of each student's progress and report this to parents. And at key stage 3 there will be a requirement for end of key stage assessment in citizenship. This will take effect when citizenship becomes a national curriculum subject in September 2002.

No wonder publishers have spotted the need for resources that will help schools develop appropriate areas of knowledge.

As someone who teaches by day and writes textbooks by night, I was particularly interested to see how this selection of new books takes some relatively arid subject and makes it accessible for young people. I know the dangers of patronising young people with a tone of voice that gets the relationship of writerreader wrong, or presents complex issues in a simplified way that makes youngsters sneer.

All these books avoid that. Their problm is that they present a huge wealth of resources, but appear uncertain what to do with it. The future, you sense, is full of classes silently copying notes on the history of criminal justice. Citizenship will need to be more active than that.

Evans's Moral Dilemmas series combines informative text with panels of quotations and questions for students to discuss. The tone is factual and informative, the format fairly dense on the page, the questions open-ended:

"Could we or should we have a single world police force?" It's a question that could grace the Oxford Union, but needs more structure if students are genuinely to engage with the issues in an informed debate.

I wanted to see questions that allowed students to believe they were developing their understanding - self-tests, quick quizzes, summary questions, tasks about sifting information. We shy away too often from giving students the personal reassurance of testing how much they have systematically learned and understood.

Twentieth Century Issues has a more contemporary feel, chiefly because of a better use of images. But it's also denser, heavily factual, with long paragraphs and a surprisingly high language level. I'd want more bullet-points, summaries, key-points, and, again, some self-help tests.

The book on Medical Ethics by Robert Snedden is informative, but far from interactive. I can imagine setting students the task of reading and summarising certain sections, but I'd feel some reluctance.

The Year 10 students who reviewed the books with me liked the Heinemann What's at Issue series most. I was put off by the cover of the Drugs and You book - two T-shirted teenagers chatting trendily over a snooker game and, in photostory captions, talking about alcohol. It's a cover that will be dated within months, I'd have thought. But my students admired the book, praising the hard-hitting photos, the accessible text style, and the unpatronising tone.

Again, I'd have liked more activities on every page or two, but they both considered the level of information well pitched. And who am I to argue with students exercising their democratic right to tell their teacher he's out of touch?

GEOFF BARTON Geoff Barton teaches English and PSHE at Thurston community college, Suffolk

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