Ted's teaching tips

10th November 2000 at 00:00
This scene is different from the dreariness of the average council chamber, but, with citizenship soon to be introduced into schools, do many children know how cities are governed, or why and what we celebrate?

City government

Who makes decisions about national affairs and laws (Parliament)? What about towns and cities (local councils)? How do you become a member (democratic elections, but well under half, often only 20 per cent of the population, bothers to turn out for local elections)? What does a Lord Mayor do (mainly a ceremonial role nowadays, taken by each political party in turn, but elected mayors in big cities are more likely to have real power, such as Ken Livingstone in London)? Which famous storybook character was Lord Mayor of London (Dick Whittington, real character, three times, in 1397, 1406 and 1419, did own a cat)?

Festivals

Why and what do people celebrate en masse in public (special days such as birthdays, anniversaries, religious occasions such as Christmas and Easter, harvest, special events such as the election of a new Lord Mayor)? How do people celebrate (processions and marches; music and dance; food and drink in regional events such as the Denby Dale pie in south Yorkshire, or wine and beer festivals, for instance, Munich; cheese rolling)? Are there any festivals or celebrations near you?

When and how did they originate (for instance Derbyshire well dressing probably goes back to th plague and even earlier Celtic water rites) and what do they mark (calendar events, battles, end of a war)?

Celebration

Our emotions are normally under tight control in public, so why do these people in the picture enjoy splashing about in boats (feelings of joy and relaxation on water; less inhibition compared with the world of work; sensuous and aesthetic pleasure of dressing up)? What is the emotional attraction of a group social event (bonds people together; inspires respect, loyalty, a sense of belonging to a community, shared experiences)?

Writing

Write a funny caption or speech bubbles for the picture ("Come in number six, your time is up","Has anyone seen the Lord Mayor, he just went out for a paddle","I think I dropped my keys round about here").

Talking points

Are processions good or a waste of time?

For

We are stuffy in our daily lives, so wholehearted celebration is a natural reaction. Most festivals are sober affairs, healthy, harmless fun. If people work hard, why shouldn't they indulge themselves? It leads to a more closely knit society.

Against

Festivals waste money while people are starving. They need extensive cleaning up afterwards, they are pointless. There are cheaper ways of having a good time. If children wanted to spend a day in boats, or parading around, they would be accused of laziness.

Ted Wragg is professor of education at Exeter University


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