Citizenship no cure for 'white loser culture'

23rd April 1999 at 01:00
Bad anti-racism work worse than none, says youth adviser. Nadene Ghouri reports

Citizenship education will not stop racism in England's "white loser culture", the Government's top adviser on youth issues, has told The TES.

Badly-handled anti-racist work in schools does more harm than good, alienating white, working-class young men - the group most likely to be perpetrators of violent racism, said Tom Wylie, chief executive of the National Youth Agency.

Instead, the NYA is calling on ministers to fund a programme of youth-work-based anti-racist programmes to run alongside citizenship education.

"Let's not say schools can do all of this in a few citizenship lessons," said Mr Wylie, formerly an HMinspector.

"The citizenship curriculum has too much freight attached to it already. It's supposed to teach political education, sustainable development, the environment, and now anti-racism. It's expected to carry too much."

In addition, Mr Wylie claims formal academic lessons will turn off young people who object to "being told by teachers what being British means".

He cited the fatal stabbing of an Asian boy at Burnage school in Manchester in 1982. A subsequent report found that white pupils felt multicultural teaching had ignored their culture, leaving them angry and isolated.

Dr Tony Sewell at the University of Leeds agrees: "Just saying 'hey, here's half an hour of race awareness' will not work. I'd rather this kind of thing not be taught than taught badly."

He said: "Schools are very limited in what they can do to change those kind of fixed attitudes at 14 or 15, but I'm not convinced youth work is the answer either. We should be focusing on nurseries and primaries instead."

The National Youth Agency want to see more projects like Bede House in Bermondsey, south-east London. According to police figures, the project, which worked with young people who were potential or actual perpetrators of violent racism, achieved a 46 per cent reduction in racial attacks over the three years it was funded. It closed when the NYA money ran out.

The agency is due to fund a similar project in Sunderland later this year, but Mr Wylie knows of no others.

He said: "What are the DFEE and Home Office waiting for? We need a sustained programme of funding for specific projects like this. We can fund the odd pilot but that's not enough."

Mr Wylie warned that unless more was done to stop the "white, male, working-class loser culture," the UK could see a rise in white militancy as in the United States.

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