An article against citizenship ed. published this week
in the telegraph (UK).

Citizens can't be made in class
(Filed: 03/02/2005)

Citizenship is 'the worst taught secondary-level subject' and pupils have
little idea what it is about. However, it is the curriculum, not teachers,
that is to blame, says Frank Furedi

Despite the fact that most people are profoundly concerned about the
quality of secondary education, officials are reluctant to acknowledge the
real state of affairs.

Secondary schools in England ill prepared for the introduction of
citizenship teaching

So when David Bell, the chief inspector of schools, spoke recently about
the "high level of unsatisfactory teaching of citizenship", you know that
something must be seriously wrong.

And when Ofsted provides evidence that citizenship is the "worst-taught
subject at secondary level", it is obvious that the introduction of this
so-called subject into the national curriculum has proved yet again that
social engineering is inconsistent with the values of real education.

>From its inception, citizenship education was a disaster waiting to
happen. As far back as July 2002, Ofsted inspectors warned that many
secondary schools in England were ill prepared for the introduction of
citizenship teaching in September. A year later, the inspectors complained
that schools appeared confused and complacent. Standards were "often low"
with a lot of "unsatisfactory management" of the subject.

Another year later and the situation had still failed to improve, as a
report by Community Service Volunteers pointed out. It euphemistically
noted that teachers still needed "more help" with citizenship lessons, two
years after they were made compulsory.

This is one problem that should not be blamed on the teaching profession.
It has been evident from the start that leading supporters of citizenship
education had little idea what the subject was about. Debating the meaning
of citizenship turned into an exchange of platitudes.

Nick Tate, then chief executive of the Qualifications and Curriculum
Authority, argued that citizenship education was "about promoting and
transmitting values", "participation" and "duties". But the obvious
question of "values about what?" was carefully avoided. Instead,

its advocates cobbled together a "hurrah list" of unobjectionable and
bland sentiments rebranded as values.

Alongside fairness, honesty and community, participation and voting were
turned into values. Prof Bernard Crick, who was David Blunkett's
intellectual mentor and key adviser on citizenship education, stated that
"students must demonstrate a commitment to active citizenship, commitment
to voluntary service and concern for the environment".

In other words, in the guise of studying an academic subject, school
children have to adopt a particular form of behaviour demanded by the
prevailing political code of conduct.

The significance that the curriculum attaches to the value of
participation is symptomatic of the subject's lack of moral and
substantive content. According to the curriculum, pupils are required to
"take part in school- and community-based activities, demonstrating
personal and group responsibility in their attitudes to themselves and
others".

However, the exhortation to participate is not founded on any vision of
what constitutes a good society or what it means to be a responsible
citizen. Nor is it clear what kind of community-based activity pupils
should engage in. Foxhunting? Going to the pub? Protesting against the
building of a new supermarket?

The inability of the curriculum to endow participation with meaning
suggests that the promoters of this subject cannot provide a convincing
account of what it means to be a good citizen. Not only is citizenship
education not an academic subject, it is also a cause in search of an
argument.

It is therefore not surprising that 10 per cent of pupils polled did not
know what was taught in citizenship lessons and another 17 per cent
remarked that there was nothing memorable about them.

David Bell is right to raise the alarm about the state of citizenship
education, but he is wrong to blame it on the quality of teaching. Whether
or not children learn how to behave as responsible citizens is decided by
their everyday experience of life. Children pick up their ideas about
personal responsibility and what it means to be a citizen from the signals
transmitted through their family and community.

Instilling ideas about what is right and what is wrong can be assisted by
inspired political leadership and responsible adults. Unfortunately,
inspired leadership and clarity about the meaning of being a British
citizen is in short supply.

And the failure of society to address these important questions cannot be
artificially rectified inside the classroom. Is it any surprise that so
many pupils admit that they have little idea why they have to study
citizenship education?

Of course, educators do not have to give up on the moral education of
school children. They have a wealth of material that they can draw on. A
creative use of the classics can go a long way towards illuminating the
purpose of public activity and reflection.

Teachers who can instil in children a love of history or of literature can
do a great deal to sensitise their pupils to the meaning of life, which
will help them develop a sense of right and wrong.

But adopting this approach is not citizenship education. It is what ought
to be called real education.
* The author is professor of sociology at the University of Kent

3 February 2005[News]: 1.5m pupils 'denied decent education'
20 January 2005[Global]: 'Coming of age' day for 18-year-olds
10 September 2003: Teachers criticise citizenship plan
1 April 2003: Citizenship: can it really be taught?

Citizenship in Secondary Schools [pdf] - Ofsted

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