Source for thought on modern Scotland

13th February 2004 at 00:00
Renewing Democracy in Scotland: an educational source book edited by Jim Crowther, Ian Martin and Mae Shaw for Higher and Advanced Higher pound;24.95 National Institute of Adult Continuing Education 21 De Montfort St, Leicester LE1 7GE

Everyone in education seems to be talking about citizenship. Headteachers will tell you what they are doing to encourage their students to be global citizens. Teachers' in-trays are overflowing with promotional flyers addressing citizenship issues. Any official delivering an in-service training course will mention citizenship at some point before coffee.

So, have we cracked it? Of course not. Secondary schools may have made great strides in citizenship education in recent years but we are just at the start of a long process and there are many issues still to be addressed.

Where, for example, is there a definitive and readable source on the many diverse aspects of Scottish democracy?

Renewing Democracy in Scotland aims to answer that question. Using the combined wisdom of 47 authors representing 27 departments across the University of Edinburgh, the editors have produced a broad collection of articles about democracy and citizenship in contemporary Scotland. More of a reference book than a textbook, every secondary school in Scotland should have at least one copy.

Although aimed at a wide range of people, the articles are short and punchy and make only minimal use of references. Furthermore, they are written in straightforward language. In short, this book is user-friendly and would be very accessible to S5 and S6 students.

The five sections cover the basics of democracy, key Scottish institutions, contemporary Scottish identities and interests, issues for democratic renewal and where Scotland sits in the international community.

If some of the headings sound a bit grand, the individual articles bring things down to earth, dealing with land ownership, race relations, trade unions, the Scottish legal system, social class and everything you ever wanted to know about Scotland but were too busy to find out about.

Importantly, the authors are well aware of the needs of school teachers and at the end of each article there are three questions for discussion and a concise list of references for further reading. This feature would be particularly useful for Advanced Higher students engaged in dissertations.

Students of many subjects could benefit from this book. A senior computing student might analyse the section on information technology and democracy.

A geography class could source all sorts of information about demographic and social change in Scotland. There is even something for physical education students, with a section on sports and leisure.

In reality, however, the classes that would probably get the most out of it would be religious and moral education, modern studies and personal, social and health education. Teachers of these subjects would find a great deal of source information and students would find authoritative articles on some of the topics at the heart of their courses.

Want to know about faith groups in Scotland? Turn to page 109. What is the situation for women in our country? See page 89. Poverty? The family? Globalisation? Child rights? It's all there.

And what of headteachers' global citizens? If they are senior students, they ought to be able to access this book in their school library. Their head should buy it, from the school fund. Active citizens need knowledge around which to base their viewpoints. This book provides just that.

Gavin Clark is principal teacher of modern studies and history at Dunbar Grammar, East Lothian

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