Grounding in the politics of our world

6th June 2003 at 01:00
Citizenship in a Democracy. By G. Clarke and I. Morrison. Pulse Publications, pound;6.95.

Alliances and the Developing World. By A. Grieve and G. Pont. Pulse Publications, pound;7.95.

When George Bernard Shaw was asked what the young can do for the old, he replied that they can "shock them and keep them up to date".

Citizenship in a Democracy and Alliances and the Developing World, written by four luminaries of the modern studies community, show that this process is, in fact, two-way.

The (relatively) old can certainly interest and inspire the young. They can also keep them very much up to date.

These books are the latest in a line of increasingly relevant, attractive and exam-focused Pulse textbooks. Judicious use of colour, pictures, diagrams and creative layouts enliven a lot of difficult information. More importantly, the text in both books is so well focused that it gets to the essence of a range of complex issues. They are, in short, essential purchases for modern studies departments.

Citizenship in a Democracy is the FoundationGeneralIntermediate 1 version of the 1999 CreditGeneralIntermediate 2 text Living in a Democracy and it follows the same structure as its cousin, systematically analysing a range of Standard grade and Intermediate topics, from the UK and Scottish electoral systems through to local government, trade unions and pressure groups. It is a tremendous accompaniment, as well as an alternative, to Living in a Democracy.

Athough less complex than its predecessor in its treatment of some issues, many are handled in a more attractive and approachable way and the information is, of course, more up-to-date. A mixed ability class would be well served by using a combination of these books through their course.

The new book is also a veritable map to the grail of young people's active participation and engagement in our political system.

Alliances and the Developing World drags the old Ideology and International Relations into the 21st century. Aimed primarily at CreditGeneralIntermediate 2 and focusing on international issues, it sharpens up topics such as the politics of aid and international alliances.

As well as looking at a host of recent issues, this text covers well topics that often appear very dry, such as EuropeanUnion funding, the Euro, enlargement of Nato, United Nations peacekeeping and fighting terrorism. If modern studies students ought to know about something, then it is here.

The conflict in the former Yugoslavia is explained in an interesting and accessible way. Honestly. The use of case studies and pictures is particularly impressive and enhances the text rather than distracting students.

One of the key challenges facing the Scottish Parliament is, surely, electoral apathy. These books will ensure that modern studies students are not only well prepared for exams but that they are aware of domestic and international issues enough to persuade them to participate in our democracy.

Gavin Clark

Gavin Clark is principal teacher of modern studies and history at Dunbar Grammar

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