Marks out of 10 - A very clever piece of kit

27th August 2010 at 01:00

The Rax Active Citizenship Toolkit

Jamie Kelsey-Fry and Anita Dhillon

New Internationalist

#163;12.99

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a headteacher in anticipation of an upcoming Ofsted must be in urgent want of someone to teach GCSE citizenship. It is equally true that this someone may be he or she who sits closest to the staffroom door or has the misfortune of non-contact time when the head is marauding the corridors. Further, citizenship is probably the last thing that many a reluctant pupil wishes to learn. All of which does not add up to a happy occasion when the said conscripted teacher turns up to teach Class 10 on a wet Friday afternoon.

But there are also, of course, very many dedicated and skilled citizenship teachers out there, and it is difficult to see how either the dedicated or the conscripted could fail to benefit from this excellent guide to the subject at GCSE level.

Designed by a film graphic artist and presented in a style not far from that of a graphic novel, the intention is to provide eye-catching images that draw in the pupil and then back it up with genuinely involving source materials and activities. And in this the author and designer succeed admirably.

There are six main chapters and an introductory one explaining how the book works. They are: A Short History of Big Change, which covers topics including democracy, slavery, women's suffrage and human rights; The Mirror, which is concerned with record-keeping, assessment and evaluation, and is geared towards the controlled assessment task at GCSE; The Processing Plant, which fosters critical thinking, enquiry, and the necessity of well-researched and balanced argument; The Gift of the Gab, which demonstrates and encourages the use of effective and appropriate language as a means of persuasion; The Projector Room, which explores ways of getting ideas for change into the community via varied and up-to-date media; and Tools for Change, which looks in more detail at campaigning. To lend a voice of authenticity, these key sections are interspersed with interviews with politicians, musicians, activists and campaigners.

The book follows a simple format almost throughout, with the left-hand page containing the key information and the opposite page offering anything up to six or seven pieces of related but independent source material. For instance, to illustrate 3.9.27 (the rule of campaigners that for maximum effect three points should be made in nine seconds using 27 words), there are five reference examples, including the CND (Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament) symbol, climate change posters, the abolition of slavery image and contemporary culture jamming.

The authors have pulled off a remarkable trick here in offering a huge range of interesting and provocative material while maintaining an overall coherence and sense of purpose behind the book as a whole. Insisting on participation and an involved response, there is a considerable emphasis on pupils running their own campaigns, whether that means a slot in a school assembly or taking on a full-scale local issue. Theory needs to lead to practice. At each turn there are numerous examples and students are encouraged to look for creative ways to present their views for maximum effect.

I can pay the The Rax Active Citizenship Toolkit no greater compliment than to say that it made me want to try out its material in a classroom. With this book to hand, those wet Friday afternoons might suddenly be eagerly anticipated, rather than dreaded, by experienced or conscripted teacher and reluctant student alike.

The verdict 1010.

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