Review of Books

CitizenshipCrick, Bernard (2000) Essays on citizenship, London: Continuum.
Lawton, Denis, Cairns Jo, and Gardner, Roy (eds) (2000) Education for Citizenship, London: Continuum.
Osler, Audrey (2000) Citizenship and democracy in schools: diversity, identity, equality, London: Trentham Books.

The number of recent ‘citizenship’ books suggest a bandwagon. However, this satisfying threesome derives from substantial and authoritative expertise in education for citizenship.

Essays on Citizenship

The first in a collection of ‘Essays on Citizenship’, ‘A subject at last!’, Bernard Crick concludes with personal words, “… ambitions for both more freedom and more responsibility (how else can capitalism and democracy complement each other?) cannot be changed without preparation in the schools: a moral framework, relevant knowledge and practice in practical skills.” He acknowledges this needs to be more pervading than just a subject label on the timetable. ‘The introducing of politics in schools’ indicates that it is a re-serving via publications in 1969, 1971 and 1977. Other chapters include ‘On bias’ and ‘The pre-suppositions of citizenship education’. One might have hoped for more insider information about the politicised consultation process under the title of ‘In defence of the Citizenship Order 2000’, so let’s hope this is in preparation. This chapter confirms the impression that the inclusion of ‘community activity’ is thought to make citizenship education more palatable, to some, for what otherwise might have been termed political education. That ‘active’ citizenship became statutory seems almost accidental.

This volume will be a necessary re-read for those analysing citizenship’s success, or otherwise, in the years ahead. For now, most teachers and development educators will need to move on with the practical implementation of active citizenship and will have little time dwell on four decades of strongly motivated erudition. So, this volume is not considered an essential read for all as preparation for citizenship education.

Education for Citizenship

Education for Citizenship’ is based on papers presented at the Institute of Education conference held in July 1999. Are development educators to be annoyed, or unsurprised, to see the global perspectives chapter in last place and tucked out of the way in a section labelled ‘comparative’, which it isn’t? No mainstreaming of the global dimension in this context, then. On closer inspection, it is a downbeat piece about the curriculum and the world in general, and incorrectly states that there will not be a published scheme of work for citizenship. Fortunately, the earlier chapters are more illuminating.

Jo Cairns sets a fully-rounded case for giving attention to individual personal growth and values acquisition in the broad and post-school context of lifelong learning. The government’s citizenship agenda demands coherence between changes in school-based learning and the individual and collective educational development plans envisaged in ‘The Learning Age’. The relationship between people and their communities is not conveniently age-dependent. Learning starts as a vehicle for change, and is not for standing still until adulthood arrives.

Janet Harland makes interesting observations on the transition from the learning outcomes approach in the Crick report to the very broad Statements of Attainment in Citizenship Order. “Keeping citizenship alive, open-ended and geared towards active partnership with the full spectrum of community, both political and social, requires a bold approach to curriculum planning and also to accreditation.” To date, this last and crucial point is unresolved and one that obviously concerns teachers.

John Annette gives an overview on service learning in the community which, although sound in itself, does not address the practical concerns of those in schools faced with implementing this activity as an entitlement. Symptomatic of the book as whole, it is mostly theoretical and not as indicative of good practice as the cover claims is the intention.

Citizenship and democracy in schools

Of the three books, for readability and practical support combined with critical enquiry, Audrey Osler’s is the one recommended for development educators and, especially, for curriculum leaders in schools and colleges. ‘Citizenship and democracy in schools’ provides stimulation and, possibly, back-up for those faced with colleagues with other priorities. Sarah Spencer’s chapter on ‘The Implications of the Human Rights Act for Citizenship Education’ could provide effective preparatory reading for a departmental or whole school staff discussion. Professional development on rights and responsibilities in balance is essential: “The concern is that they adopt the bolshy ‘I know my rights’ line that parents and teachers dread!”

For a similar purpose, Peter Figueroa’s constructive advice on pluralism could be used. It deals with various logical abstractions, but could not be clearer in stating, “One must stand somewhere. It is not possible to stand nowhere. But neither is an attempt to stand everywhere tenable.” I suggest you try running  that by colleagues in the staffroom, or elsewhere, who claim to be apolitical. The international perspectives come last in this volume too, but here Lynn Davies, familiar to readers of this journal, clearly outlines the multi-layered tensions between intervention and freedom.

Taken together, these books provide much of the grounding for what became the Citizenship Order. The contents of all three will be familiar to those engaged in the conferences, seminars and curriculum consultation. For new audiences, and especially those in schools, there is an obvious selection to help look forward to implementing citizenship education. For now, let us hope that once the academics have research of practice in schools they will publish more evidence of the global dimension than represented in these collections.

Angus Willson
Published in Development Education Journal

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