Teaching values versus imparting knowledge

14th December 2012 at 00:00

I was interested in the provocative views of Claire Fox ("Don't let value-mongers hijack the classroom", Comment, 7 December). But let's leave aside the absurd view that citizenship and the building of a functioning civil society should be "left to politicians" and concentrate on facts.

First, citizenship did not start to be taught in the classroom in 1996, as Ms Fox implies. This presumption misses the point that when we introduced the subject in 2002 we envisaged it building up over time. Therefore, many young people involved in the August 2011 riots (particularly the age group to which she referred) would not have experienced citizenship lessons in any way that might have prevented them from rioting.

Second, I did not "opportunistically" use the riots to develop the thesis that we should hang on to this awful thing called citizenship in the curriculum. I actually produced a programme for full-time, embedded and meaningful options for unemployed young people between the ages of 16 and 25.

Since then I've established an embryo charity called Future For Youth Foundation and, in 2013, we hope to engage young people who find themselves ignored by society, and give them a genuine opportunity to work and build their future.

Sometimes politicians are inclined to sneer at others, make grandiose claims and do nothing. Sometimes those writing, like Ms Fox, are in danger of doing exactly the same.

David Blunkett MP, Former education secretary.

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