Nationalists say modern studies vital for all secondaries

1st October 1999 at 01:00
The Nationalists are targeting modern studies to expose weaknesses in devolution and attract young voters.

Graham Sutherland, an Edinburgh modern studies teacher, told delegates:

"Modern studies offers knowledge to youngsters so that they can understand the role and limitations of the Scottish Parliament." The party overwhelmingly backed his call for all young people to enjoy rights to citizenship or political education.

Mr Sutherland said this was vital if young people were to know about the social, political and economic factors that shape the nation. But many were denied their rights because the subject was not taught in all secondaries.

Last year's conference backed pupils' rights to be taught Scottish history, a raw nerve among Nationalists.

Mr Sutherland said all children should have access to the skills and knowledge required in a modern democracy. "Modern studies teaches how to participate in a political system and why it's important to vote in elections. It teaches skills that will enable young people to evaluate political policies and statements and to detect bias. With a firm grounding in citizenship through modern studies, Scotland's future citizens will be much more likely to be politically informed, prepared and articulate," he said.

He was supported by Rachel Findlay, Edinburgh West, who said young people should be able to look at Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia and ask, "why not Scotland?" When young people bothered to vote, "we know, and the Labour Party know too, that this is a vote for the SNP". So the party would benefit directly from an increased political awareness.

Lachlan McNeill, Milngavie, described modern studies as "a jewel in our educational crown", but one that had been squeezed out of the curriculum.

Isobel Strong, an Argyll councillor and former modern studies teacher, said the difficulties small schools faced in teaching three social subjects had led to phasing out modern studies. And she reminded delegates that teachers had to be objective when they taught modern studies.

Paul Scott, veteran Nationalist and author, again appealed for giving Scottish history its proper place in the curriculum. That had to be put right first. "Young Scots have a misunderstanding of the Union based on false and distorted history," he said.

In the end, despite reservations about political indoctrination, conference accepted the need for citizenship education.

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