22nd June 2001 at 01:00
WHAT'S AT ISSUE? series. HUMAN RIGHTS. By Paul Wignall

MAKING A DIFFERENCE. By Richard Spilsbury



RICH AND POOR. By Jeremy Wallis

SCIENCE AND YOU. By David Applin

WAR AND CONFLICT. By Sean Connolly

Heinemann Library pound;10.99. Available from TES Direct

A glance at the issues and ethics materials in school libraries and RE departments shows how difficult it is to keep up to date. Not only do new issues emerge such as Aids and human cloning, but perennial issues need to be studied in today's contexts; Oldham perhaps, instead of South Africa?

Not only has Heinemann succeeded in publishing a series which is as contemporary as any reasonable person could expect, but it has also provided in each title an essential information base to help teenagers consider and discuss the questions raised.

Human Rights naturally includes material on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Children Act, but it also introduces the thinking of Alasdair MacIntyre, who views human rights not as a fundamental part of being human, but more in terms of a responsibility to live properly with other people. David Applin's Science and You makes a difficult but important subject highly readable, with clear explanations of frequently discussed but infrequently understood topics such as genetic modificatio, global warming and immunisation.

The authors have generally succeeded in the ambitious task of analysing large subjects in terms of the key concepts and issues. War and Conflict examines the causes of war, the nuclear dilemma, peacemaking and wars of the future. Rich and Poor highlights the links between poverty and health, explores the nature of an "underclass" and assesses Murray and Herrnstein's theories on the relationship between IQ and income. Less successful is Making a Difference, which ranges across too wide a field, from homelessness to animal protection, attempting to show the influence of charities, non-governmental organisations, pressure groups and individuals.

Full-colour photographs and illustrations make these attractive books to use, and their length of about 45 pages should encourage cover-to-cover reading by pupils interested in a particular topic. Each title has a glossary, useful contacts and helplines including websites, recommended further reading and a detailed index.

Librarians should consider buying those titles that relate to topics in PSHE and RE. Overall, the series is an impressive effort in a fairly undistinguished area. The balance of analysis and information provides the guidance young people need to find their own way through today's moral maze.

Mark Williamson is general adviser for humanities and religious education in the London borough of Hounslow.

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