Lessons in Being Good Citizens? No, Propaganda That Undermines British Values

Daily Mail (London), September 29, 2006 | Go to article overview

Lessons in Being Good Citizens? No, Propaganda That Undermines British Values


Byline: MELANIE PHILLIPS

THE REPORT card handed out by Ofsted this week to those who teach citizenship in our schools makes devastating reading - but in ways that are far deeper and even more alarming than might at first appear.

Citizenship lessons, say the school inspectors, are unsatisfactory in a quarter of schools, with only a minority of lessons scoring better than merely adequate.

This, they say, is often because the teachers themselves don't have a clue about the topics they are supposed to be teaching under the umbrella of 'citizenship', nor, indeed, what these lessons are supposed to achieve in the first place.

The result is a lot of dull or irrelevant classes, whose standards are sometimes so execrable it makes you want to weep. One lesson on the principles of decisionmaking in society, for example, drifted into a discussion of the bodily needs of people stranded on a desert island.

Dismal indeed. Some people, though, might think this isn't worth getting worked up about. Citizenship hardly seems as important a subject as maths, English or science. And others might think all that's needed is better training.

Such complacency would be misguided.

For the whole citizenship saga encapsulates in microcosm the calamity that has befallen education as a whole, and serves as a parable of this country's loss of national nerve.

Years ago, we weren't taught anything called 'citizenship'. It was in civics, or in history or even geography lessons, that we learned about the institutions of central and local government and how they worked, about elections and voting, about law and justice.

That was when education was understood to be all about transmitting the country's national story to successive generations, in order to pass on an understanding of British national identity and instil a common feeling of belonging.

Citizenship arose from a knowledge and consequent love of the nation to which you belonged. Above all, it was based upon a sense of obligation to your country, to be loyal to it, to subscribe to its values and, if necessary, die in its defence. It was a bond of shared duty which bound us to together as a nation.

For more than three decades, however, all that has been thrown up in the air. The idea that the schools should perpetuate a national identity based on 1,000 years of history was decried as imperialist and xenophobic, and transmitting national values was held to be akin to brainwashing children into a racist cult.

The result was that generations of children were no longer taught the political history of Britain, its institutions and values. Instead, they were served up a multicultural mishmash and a make-itupas-you-go-along, irresponsible free-forall in values.

This not only left children ignorant but contributed to a dangerous fragmentation and even alienation as generations grew up not understanding the nation to which they were supposed to belong. Without such a sense of attachment, there can be no civic obligations or any meaningful sense of nationhood.

The Government eventually became so alarmed about all this that it started to talk up citizenship as a kind of talisman against social fragmentation and extremism.

But instead of addressing multiculturalism and all the other dotty shibboleths which had so badly undermined both education and national identity, it came up instead with citizenship education under the tutelage of the former politics don Lord Crick.

This was, to put it mildly, an own goal for our beleaguered culture. For Lord Crick promptly turned the concept of citizenship inside out.

Instead of revitalising the core values of this country and restoring a sense of obligation to it, he inserted into the curriculum under the camouflage of citizenship education soggy Leftwing propaganda about multiculturalism, human rights, globalisation and other fashionable concepts which have systematically eroded British values. …

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