An article against citizenship
ed. published this week
in the telegraph (UK).
Citizens can't be made
Citizenship is 'the worst taught secondary-level subject'
and pupils have
little idea what it is about. However, it is the curriculum,
that is to blame, says Frank Furedi
Despite the fact that most people are profoundly concerned
quality of secondary education, officials are reluctant
to acknowledge the
real state of affairs.
Secondary schools in England ill prepared for the introduction
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
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
>From its inception, citizenship education was a
disaster waiting to
happen. As far back as July 2002, Ofsted inspectors warned
secondary schools in England were ill prepared for the
citizenship teaching in September. A year later, the
that schools appeared confused and complacent. Standards
were "often low"
with a lot of "unsatisfactory management" of
Another year later and the situation had still failed
to improve, as a
report by Community Service Volunteers pointed out. It
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
It has been evident from the start that leading supporters
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
Authority, argued that citizenship education was "about
transmitting values", "participation" and "duties".
But the obvious
question of "values about what?" was carefully
its advocates cobbled together a "hurrah list" of
bland sentiments rebranded as values.
Alongside fairness, honesty and community, participation
and voting were
turned into values. Prof Bernard Crick, who was David
intellectual mentor and key adviser on citizenship education,
"students must demonstrate a commitment to active
to voluntary service and concern for the environment".
In other words, in the guise of studying an academic
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
participation is symptomatic of the subject's lack of
substantive content. According to the curriculum, pupils
are required to
"take part in school- and community-based activities,
personal and group responsibility in their attitudes
to themselves and
However, the exhortation to participate is not founded
on any vision of
what constitutes a good society or what it means to be
citizen. Nor is it clear what kind of community-based
should engage in. Foxhunting? Going to the pub? Protesting
building of a new supermarket?
The inability of the curriculum to endow participation
suggests that the promoters of this subject cannot provide
account of what it means to be a good citizen. Not only
education not an academic subject, it is also a cause
in search of an
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
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
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.
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
Of course, educators do not have to give up on the moral
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
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
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