Twelve good citizens

25th September 1998 at 01:00
THE CITIZENSHIP VIDEO. Team Video Productions, 222 Kensal Road, London W10 5BN. Pounds 35 excluding VAT

Twelve British citizens, widely different in their backgrounds and their views, answer questions about citizenship. What is it, they are asked; what does it mean? Do we share its rights and obligations equally, are we entitled, if we wish to, to opt out of them or break them? What should good citizens do if, for example, they see someone being abused, or the law being broken? What should they do if they are called to war?

In 18 brief units (five or six minutes each), prefaced by 20 seconds or so of archive TV news to set the scene - we get the flavour of their replies, and begin to think about our answers. Unsurprisingly (for the contributors range from Lord Tebbit and Lady Olga Maitland to Sally Witcher from the Child Poverty Action Group to black campaigner Derek Hinds, and take in for good measure an environmental activist, two unemployed Liverpool school-leavers and the director general of the CBI) the replies vary hugely and the issues are equally wide-ranging.

Citizenship, after all, raises real difficulties about entitlement and exclusion, and the problem with this intriguing blend of analysis and prejudice is that in the secondary classroom it is likely to generate more heat than light.

It will take good teaching - and not just the photocopiable activity sheets included with the pack - to help students pick out the false trails and pitfalls (the "right" for instance to watch Liverpool on a Saturday, or the bad citizenship, in Lady Olga's eyes, of "telephone abuse") from the really important observations and perceptions.

Fortunately, there are plenty of the latter, particularly in the contributions from Claude Moraes from the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants and from Police Superintendent Davina Logan, but also from the always thoughtful Sally Witcher, the icily articulate Derek Hinds, the engagingly anarchic and otherwise anonymous environmentalist "Bob", and Lord Tebbit.

But it is the 13th contribution, from asylum seeker Farida Staniksai from Afghanistan, that demands most careful listening. Farida reminds us that this citizenship, that we debate so casually in our classrooms, is to many peoples of the world a thing of priceless value.

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