Language is very powerful. It can undermine a child's confidence, or boost it. It can stir racist feelings or patriotic fervour, but can also promote understanding and reconciliation.
In times like these, when vicious nationalism and ethnic hatred dominate the headlines, education for citizenship seems more important than ever. Helping people to find that faint line between pride in one's background and disdain for others is increasingly crucial.
Here in Britain, a black teacher who had been attacked by white youths told this month's National Union of Teachers' conference that pupils should be given anti-racist education from Reception to university. And NSPCC research shows that, even among friends, racial epithets can easily spring to the toungue (see page 8) In this issue of TES Primary, Annabelle Dixon talks of helping children discover the language of empathy, words which help them recognise that difference and even disagreement are not necessarily bad (see page 38).
These "tool words" for citizenship include "problem" and "solve"; "point of view", "imagination" and "feelings". Problems such as racism, she writes, "are the stuff of real debate", and children need the skills with which to undertake it - skills that will benefit "not only individuals but the society they are going to live in".