Humanities and citizenship

24th March 2000 at 00:00
CITIZENSHIP as described by Professor Crick in his report "Citizenship and the Teaching of Democracy in Schools" consists of three strands - social and moral responsibility, community involvement and political literacy. Each plays a complementary role in the programmes of study for citizenship, coming to secondary schools in August 2002.

Promoting social and moral responsibility is a task for parents supported by the whole school and its communities. The values which prevail in schools should encourage pupils not only to have a sense of their responsibilities to themselves, each other and society as a whole, but enable them to make judgments about what is right and wrong in the world.

The day-to-day life of school, the subjects of the curriculum and a school's links with its communities, all have role in promoting these responsibilities. Community involvement provides an active way of learning citizenship. It helps pupils to see how decision making, negotiation and change in legal, political, social and community affairs work.

Projects with local planners, politicians and agencies give pupils opportunities to acquire and demonstrate their citizenship knowledge, skills and undersanding.

Political literacy refers to the knowledge and understanding that citizens need to make sense of the law, politics, government, economic development and the environment, from the local to the global level. Without this strand the other two strands would lack a secure foundation, direction and effect. Similarly, without the other two strands political literacy would lack credibility and relevance for pupils.

Humanities, consisting of history and geography but often embracing RE, has a potentially important role to play in providing citizenship.

In RE, pupils learn about the beliefs and traditions which underpin our sense of moral authority and responsibility. History, geography and economics provide vital knowledge and understanding as the background and context to political decision making, legal and government institutions, economic development and impacts on the environment.

All the humanities promote common skills: enquiry and communication, for example. Together they can provide an integrated way of understanding citizenship.

John Keast is principal subject officer for RE for the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, London. Tel: 020 7509 5555

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