Rights and responsibilities

4th July 2003 at 01:00

Frederick Douglass: For the Great Family of Man

By Peter Burchard; Atheneum Books for Young Readers pound;14.72

Frederick Douglass is not as well known now as he ought to be. We tend to think of the 19th-century fight against slavery as white people fighting the cause of black people, but Frederick Douglass fought his own battles: he was the Nelson Mandela of his day. Born into slavery, he escaped and was able to buy his freedom, thanks to donations sent by his many supporters in Britain. A life-long Anglophile, he was enthusiastic about the cause of Irish Home Rule in between his tireless campaigning against slavery in the American South. He had the good sense to have nothing to do with John Brown's madcap attack on Harper's Ferry, knowing that it was likely to fail, but once the Civil War had started he was a powerful recruiting figure for the Union. His memoir Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave ranks with Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin as a leading anti-slavery text.

Racial injustice is as central to citizenship as it is to history. Here is a black historical role model to put alongside more familiar figures such as William Wilberforce or Mahatma Gandhi. The book is very readable, for children and for teachers who want to find out more about this remarkable man.

Practical Resources for Teaching Citizenship in Secondary Classrooms

Edited by Ruth Tudor; David Fulton pound;16

The title says it all: here are resources, aims, objectives, curriculum links and guidance on assessment to take you through a coherent unit-by-unit course in citizenship.

We are probably talking higher-ability groups as there are very few pictures, and some children will find the language difficult. The emphasis is very much on overarching principles of rights and government, rather than on issues that children might encounter in their everyday lives.

Perhaps not surprisingly, there is a strong history theme: there's a timeline showing the extension of the franchise through the 19th and 20th centuries, tips on how to use the census to research your family tree, and even King John and Magna Carta get a look-in. But since it's so often the history department that gets the citizenship brief, perhaps that's no bad thing.

These exercises start by looking at what is meant by "British", covering examples from Saxons and Jutes to Kosovan Albanians, and progress through issues of rights, representation and justice. You can write to the White House to urge America to ratify the Kyoto Protocol and you can help design a school energy policy.

I would have liked to see more about local issues and initiatives, but this will serve you well for when you get to the heavier end of the course.

Your Rights and Responsibilities: Understanding the Role of Law in Society

Edited by Don Rowe and Tony Thorpe; Vol 1: Key Stage 3 pound;30; Vol 2: Key Stage 4 pound;35

EvansThe Citizenship Foundation

Concepts of law are crucial but tricky, so if you're not too sure of what to do about next door's leylandii tree or you're unsure of the age when you can drink in a pub, then start here.

The books contain a series of case studies ranging from causes cel bres, such as Victoria Gillick's campaign against teenage contraception, to names-changed situations such as school children shoplifting to order or the boy who was forced by his parents to live in a cell.

The photocopiable worksheets are attractively laid out, and there is ample guidance for the teacher unsure of where the law might be expected to come down. You would be surprised, for example, at how complex the legal position on spitting can be (it's considered assault and battery, and you can sue for damages).

Some of the key stage 3 role-plays insist, rather too heavily, on a choice between two alternatives: there is no room for subtleties or nuances of judgment.

The KS4 book looks at specific issues, such as divorce and the law of contract, and the role-plays get more complex: a well-planned mock trial for a dubious case of shoplifting and a good presentation of the issues raised by the Derek Bentley case. This is an excellent resource.

Exploring Citizenship series Active Involvement Story Trust Power and Success

By Chris Sunderland; The Stapleford Centre pound;6.99 each; 4 books pound;24


Citizenship was always meant to be about more than just learning the ins and out of Parliament, and this series is grouped around four much deeper concepts, with particularly enlightening reflections on the power of story and the role of trust.

Although the aim is to go beyond the classroom, there are good ideas for lesson activities: one suggestion is to invite an outside speaker whose views are controversial, and to have the children run the session .

The books range widely, drawing on examples as diverse as the state of the school toilets and the relevance of the Old Testament's Book of Ruth.

The series presents as many challenges to schools and teachers as it does to pupils. The author supported pupils' walk-outs in protest at the war in Iraq, but some schools will balk at the idea of organising protests as official school activities, as he suggests here. And librarians deserve a bit of consideration - every reference for research is an internet site, even for reading William Golding's Lord of the Flies.

This is a series which citizenship teachers should have to help them push out the subject's boundaries, and to help them decide where they should be set.

Sean Lang teaches history at Long Road Sixth Form College and is co-editor of Modern History Review

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