Roots treatment

23rd January 2004 at 00:00
A History of Education for Citizenship

By Derek Heater

RoutledgeFalmer pound;80

Political Learning and Citizenship in Europe Edited by Christine

Roland-Levy and Alistair Ross

Trentham Books pound;16.99

Derek Heater has had a distinguished career, committed to the improvement of political and citizenship education. A co-author with Bernard Crick, he has also written widely on history and citizenship. Here he has boldly set himself the task of writing a comprehensive history of citizenship from Ancient Greece to the contemporary world. The book is well structured, with five predominantly chronological sections. Well informed, referenced and written, it ranges from Canada to Colombia, from Sweden to Singapore.

Heater's account is illuminated by his awareness of the major issues faced by citizenship educators. Teachers will find three sections particularly interesting: the first on Greece and Rome, where the big recurring citizenship issues were first defined; then his analysis of recent developments in the UK; and the final chapter, which deals with multicultural issues, European and world citizenship.

He is understandably upbeat about the achievements of Crick and Blunkett.

They have dragged a laggard UK alongside most other European countries and perhaps ahead of the US. The final chapter tackles the increasingly perceived inadequacies of the traditional state-citizen model and the challenges to citizenship educators posed by the "multi-layered identities and loyalties" which many young people feel.

The multi-identities experienced by European youth is a major theme of Political Learning and Citizenship in Europe, sponsored by the Children's Identity in Europe (CiCe) project, a network of university departments of education, established in 1996. Part of the EU Erasmus initiative, it assumes that the strengthening of a sense of European identity is both beneficial and important. Its articles deal, among other matters, with how young people can be encouraged to think and act as citizens (through a UK-based project), reflections on how the "European dimension" in historical education is helped or hindered by the manner in which the Second World War is taught, and an analysis of the differing approaches to citizenship education in the US, the UK, Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands. Its academic provenance means careful definitions and descriptions of research methods, but teachers will find much to interest them.

Heater is essential reading for everyone interested in citizenship education, while Roland-LevyRoss is well worth sampling. They impress me with the difficulty of the task facing citizenship teachers in liberal democracies, but also with its importance. The most successful initiatives occurred when new governments were leading movements of national and social revival - as in France after defeat by Prussia in 1870-71, and in Russia after the 1917 Revolution. Then, governments and teachers shared the same visions however simplistic. Now, throughout Europe, there is great and growing distrust of politicians and parliaments and, among young people, an understandable if naive hope that one can be a good citizen without being interested or involved in the political process. Will the visions of Crick, Blunkett and the Europhiles founder on this distrust?

Martin Roberts is former head of the Cherwell School, Oxford

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