Citizenship through Secondary History

By James Arthur; Ian Davies et al. | Go to book overview

Foreword

This book could not possibly be timelier. The new citizenship order comes into force in August 2002. Planning in some schools is well ahead (and plenty of time, for once, was given); in some others, it has scarcely begun; but in most it is still - as senior officials would say - 'under active discussion'. How it is to be done and who is to do it may not yet be finally decided. So it is very important for History to stake its claim, both intellectually and to play a leading role in the needed reorganization sometimes of timetables and always of cross-curricular co-operation of different areas of the curriculum. I am delighted that this book makes the claim so strongly and clearly.

The Citizenship order is in several ways peculiar. As the first two chapters make clear, the order itself is what David Blunkett has called 'light-touch' and I glossed as 'strong bare bones'. It is less prescriptive than the other subjects. Four pages are enough to set it out in broad headings in the revised National Curriculum. More freedom of interpretation is left to teachers than in the other subjects. There is a strong intellectual reason for this: it would be not merely paradoxical but self-contradictory if a subject meant to enhance active and informed citizenship, in other words the understanding and use of freedom, was to be too prescriptive. I suspect that there was a sensible political reason too, that ministers would not have wanted argument about detail - leave that to the good sense of teachers, and, of course, of the inspectorate - indeed, in difficult cases, of governors. This deliberate lack of detailed prescription allows the order to be wide - if we look at the knowledge side alone; it covers national and local political and social institutions, as well as demanding some awareness of international institutions and of global problems. It goes wider than some of us advocated in the Hansard Society report of 1978, 'Political Education and Political Literacy', for it now includes knowledge of the social services, the main NGOs, the voluntary sector and of the institutions of business. Good citizenship is more than political activity alone. The subject order may look impossibly wide, but it is a wide general knowledge that is looked for and needed as a preparation for full citizenship (and some participative practice of it, indeed, as the order enjoins, both in school and in the local communities). To get relationships right is more important than in-depth knowledge of this and that. This means that it has to be flexible as well as light-touch. So long as pupils understand the significance of all the items in the order and the effect they can have on each other, equal weight need not be attached to each line nor equal coverage either. The QCA Citizenship at Key Stages 3 and 4: Initial

-xvii-

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