Debates in Citizenship Education

Debates in Citizenship Education

Debates in Citizenship Education

Debates in Citizenship Education

Synopsis

What are the key issues in Citizenship Education today? Debates in Citizenship Education encourages student and practising teachers to engage with and reflect on some of the key topics, concepts and debates that they will have to address throughout their career. It places the specialist field of Citizenship Education in a wider context and aims to enable teachers to reach their own informed judgements and argue their points of view with deeper theoretical knowledge and understanding.

Excerpt

Britain is exceptional among modern Western democracies in having had, until recently, very little direct provision of citizenship education in state schools. One reason for this absence may be that between 1925 and 1988 there was, in England and Wales, almost no direct central government control of curriculum content. Another reason for this neglect is the character of citizenship itself in Britain. Many writers have argued that the British are ‘subjects’ rather than citizens. Historian David Cannadine contrasts the USA ‘where the inhabitants are citizens’ with the UK ‘where the inhabitants are still subjects’ (1998: 53–4). Sociologist Bryan Turner (1990) in his well-known typology put the UK in the category of ‘citizen-as-subject’. And Tom Nairn has written scathingly of Britons having ‘a surrogate national identity’ in which the Crown and the Royal Family provided the key symbolic focus – ‘a national-popular identity composed decisively “from above”’ (1988: 136–7). In such a situation it is scarcely surprising that Britain has no developed language of citizenship, no discourse through which British people naturally think or speak of themselves as citizens, and no public rituals in which citizenship is explicitly the focus (Ahier, Beck and Moore, 2003).

Despite this, Britain presents a paradox in that, especially since the Second World War, UK citizenship has been substantively strong – in certain respects much stronger than, say, in the USA. In his celebrated lectures on ‘Citizenship and social class’ (1950) T.H. Marshall distinguished three ‘elements’ of citizenship each associated with distinct kinds of entitlements. These were, first, the civic element consisting of civic and legal rights and protections, secondly the political element comprising a range of rights associated with democratic participation and representation, and finally (and most innovative) the social element, which includes, precisely as rights of citizenship, a range of welfare entitlements protecting individuals against risks arising from ill health, unemployment, and poverty in old age, and also including free primary and secondary education. Marshall went on to argue the contentious thesis that the realisation of full citizenship in a modern democracy needed to include this social element – not least because a relatively . . .

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