What do they mean?

2nd July 2004 at 01:00
This sounds very noble. It also sounds very fuzzy. Basically, it can mean anything they want it to mean. Not so long ago it seemed to be all about bogus asylum-seekers being able to name the six wives of Henry VIII, or something. Now it means shoehorning a blueprint of a model member of society into any little gaps in the curriculum not already plugged by all the other things we've shoehorned in already.

The Department for Education and Skills has helpfully provided lots of definitions and guidelines, along with suggestions for jolly classroom activities. This is just as well, since, without the benefit of citizenship education lessons when we were at school, we are all completely ignorant of the subject. It is horrifying to think that we all emerged from our bastions of learning with no knowledge of our rights and responsibilities, unaware that we were meant to help old ladies across the road, and assuming that a polling station was somewhere to hire a punt.

Come to think of it, when we were young we weren't citizens at all, we were Her Majesty's subjects, and we had our parents' passports to prove it. I suppose nobody thought that subjectship education was necessary - we all knew we would be executed if we defaced the Queen's head on a stamp, and that was all we needed.

Quite frankly, we at St Jude's are rather alarmed by the idea that all our young charges are going to be citizens when they grow up. In fact we're rather alarmed by the idea that they're going to grow up at all.

Still, we're giving it a go. We have encouraged them to discuss what school is like, why there are rules and how they can expect to be treated. We have suggested they imagine being on a desert island, and asked them how they would get along, and what common principles they would establish.

We have no idea what they get out of it, but we're learning plenty. This lot would make Lord of the Flies look like Swallows and Amazons. They have a highly developed sense of fairness, which tells them that nothing is. And they must never, under any circumstances, be allowed to vote.


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