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A recent survey of 500 British primary and secondary found that less than half (47%) could name the Education Secretary. Only one in five under 30 could name him whereas two-thirds over 50 successfully knew his name. This is very surprising as Charles Clarke has received a great deal of publicity over the last few weeks as he has been seeking support for highly controversial policies concerning the funding of higher education.

These statistics suggest that most teachers are not very informed about this very important issue. As one of those teachers who believes it is vitally important to have a good understanding of political issues in order to be a functioning citizen, I am extremely concerned by these statistics. It is part of a trend that has been illustrated in the fact that the majority of people under 30 in Britain are not voting in elections.

I would like to pose two questions: (1) Is this situation in Britain being reflected in other democratic countries? (2) Is there anyway that schools could help with this problem?

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Isn't it also vitally important that teachers have a sound understanding of the political and sociological context in which they work? It is a short step from teacher to "prison officer" without this. It disturbs me that such an education is conspicuously lacking from most teacher training course in the UK. I wonder if this is the same elsewhere?

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I don't agree - I am not a prison officer just because I have no issue with who is Education Minister etc? It does not stop me from doing a good job does it? Putting a political slant on training may mean the some trainees may end up with a politcal agenda that does not sit well in the classroom. After all if teachers have to go through this then why not prison officers, the police etc.

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Puttin a political slant on training may mean the some trainees may end up with a politcal agenda that does not sit well in the classroom.

I wasn't suggesting this. And of course you don't have to be hugely interested in politics to be an effective teacher.

I do however think it is very important that teachers have a sociological input in their training. This will inevitably involve an analysis of different perspectives on education and policy some of which will be by their nature very political.

My view is that teacher training has gone far too far down the "on the job" "School based" path. In a career of potentially 40 years teachers need the inspiration that a study of broader themes than classroom management and behaviour management will give them. In short they need some inspiration. Mine came from sociology, a commitment to comprehensive education, for others inspiration may spring from the philosophy or history of education.

John's point about lack of political knowledge is I believe a rather different one. He seems to be expressing a concern that teachers charged with delivering the Citizenship component of the National Curriculum should have a basic grasp of current affairs.

I would be very much in favour of the broader education of prison officers and police officers :rolleyes:

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I don't agree - I am not a prison officer just because I have no issue with who is Education Minister etc? It does not stop me from doing a good job does it? Putting a political slant on training may mean the some trainees may end up with a politcal agenda that does not sit well in the classroom. After all if teachers have to go through this then why not prison officers, the police etc.

My main concern is that young people are leaving schools with a lack of interest in politics. This political apathy is reflected in their tendency not to vote in elections. This is a very dangerous trend in a democratic society. When governments make political decisions they have to take account the opinions of the electorate. History shows as that governments take notice of the opinions of those in positions of power (especially the people who control our means of communication).

Governments also take notice of groups of individuals organized into organizations such as trade unions and pressure groups. The present government is very interested in floating/swing voters. It is this group that wins elections. A major part of the Blair Project was to set up a series of focus groups made up of floating voters. These focus groups were used to discover what made people vote for particular parties in elections. This then provided them with the policies for their election manifesto. This strategy has now been adopted by the Conservative Party and explains why their published policies are more left-wing than it has been traditionally. In fact, in many cases, their policies are to the left of New Labour.

It could be argued that the use of focus groups and public opinion polls makes the system more democratic. In a way, it is, as long as all sections of the community are willing to keep themselves informed about the policies of the various political parties. It is also important that they are all willing to vote. Once a group shows little interest in voting, political parties can afford to ignore their opinions or interests. This has traditional been a problem for the poor. As a group, they have been less likely to vote than any other group. They are also the least-informed group in our society. It is therefore not surprising that governments have been reluctant to introduce measures to improve the situation of the poor. Especially as these measures will involve increasing the taxes of the better off members of society, the very group who take a keen interest in politics and always make sure they vote in elections.

My fear is that in future, because of their political apathy, young people will be treated like the poor in our society. Politicians will know they can introduce measures that penalise young people without having to suffer serious consequences at the polls.

This is reflected in the government’s “top-up fees” proposal. Although this measure favours people like myself (high-income, children finished their education, etc.) it was have a serious impact on young people who have not completed their education.

Gordon Brown argues that it is unfair to ask people like him and Tony Blair to pay a 50% tax on their earnings over £100,000. However, under the current proposals, in a couple of years time, a graduate teacher, on just over £35,000 will be paying 50% of their marginal income in tax, student debt and top up fees.

The only reason that this government thinks it can get away with it because it is convinced that young people are politically apathetic. I think they have got their calculations wrong as this measure will galvanize young people into political action. They will also suffer a backlash from middle-class parents who will undoubtedly spend their resources to help their children deal with this terrible situation.

However, it is necessary to warn young people that unless they become actively involved in the political process they face the danger of being discriminated against by this and future governments.

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I thought A Walker said you were interested in giving political 'nounce' this rather more looks like anti-blairite attacks on the policies! Top up fees etc have nothing to do with the original thread. If people are apathetic to the political system - it is their choice. Politics should not be rammed down people's throats. What is next, enforced citizenship in a hardline stalinist regieme?

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Politics should not be rammed down people's throats. What is next, enforced citizenship in a hardline stalinist regieme?

Clearly no one is suggesting it should be.

As I read it John is suggesting that if the young are left in political ignorance then their interests will not be listened to by government. This is already revealing itself policies damaging to young peoples interests like top up fees.

Out of interest, how do you think the Citizenship Curriculum should be taught if at all?

To misquote Willie Whitelaw, what are the consequences of going around "whipping up apathy"? I'm sure it must be in someone's interests :D

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Perhaps the aim of Citizenship education should be give students the ability to think whatever suits them about absolutely anything as long as they are not setting out to deliberately destroy the freedoms and human rights of others?

Surely by not voting in elections and being detached from the mainstream political process young people are simply setting up their own alternative forum for political action. The problem for us as educators is to respond to this new paradox - clearly the tradiational politicians cannot respond to it. They cannot respond to it since it threatens their comfortable and priviliged position.

Citizenship education holds the possibility of being a completely new model of 21st century education, that of the young person led and focussed course. Let your students choose their own courses. If they want to study the political campaigns of the anti-globalisation movement, then let them do that. If they want to engage the local council in a debate over the refusal of outdated models of western democracy to engage with the grass roots, then facilitate that. The whole concept of Citizenship education is surely just a sop from the priviliged classes who control the western "democratic" system to give a pretence of valuing political participation.

Citizenship teachers should be helping their students to go on anti-war protests or to organise petitions against the tyranny of Westminster politics if that is what the students want to do. Teachers cannot do Citizenship without being political. Maybe putting it on the curriculum will be the long term undoing of the present political system.

If you will not tackle these issues jbooth then maybe you are not fully appreciating the reality of the situation that now exists in the world.

I look forward to posting in my subject areas where issues involving Politics, Sociology and History come up. Thank you for this great new pan European forum.

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What tosh! I am a History Teacher and I alue good history teaching - all this mumbo jumbo about citizenship smacks to me of nannying the people, telling them what to do, when to do it and what to say in the event of having a thought. Lord knows what it will be like in a 'pan European community'. Why else do you think Blair is looking at lowering the voting age to 16! Next it will be only those with GCSE in Citizenship to vote - what is next, political education in the classroom, political educators deciding the electorate in the classroom! why don't we all start waving the red flag and calling the Cold War a draw

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What tosh! I am a History Teacher and I alue good history teaching - all this mumbo jumbo about citizenship smacks to me of nannying the people, telling them what to do, when to do it and what to say in the event of having a thought. Lord knows what it will be like in a 'pan European community'. Why else do you think Blair is looking at lowering the voting age to 16! Next it will be only those with GCSE in Citizenship to vote - what is next, political education in the classroom, political educators deciding the electorate in the classroom! why don't we all start waving the red flag and calling the Cold War a draw

I find it a little difficult to follow your logic JBooth. Perhaps you could take us through your opposition to education for citizenship step by step. I would certainly appreciate the clarification. I'd also be intrigued to hear more of your reasoned arguments against pan European collaboration. Perhaps you would like to start a new thread in this forum to help you explore your ideas....?

I would also be good if you could post in the introductions thread. :D

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I have no problem with citizenship per se but I do find political education via an alternative means an issue. The development of being a member of society is one thing but telling people they have a voice and how to shout about it is another. All that will happen is each government will decide what element of citizenship they want to see more of.

My big fear regarding the introduction of a European role in all of this will be the removal of our own Parliamentary democracy in return for some Brussels based government that has all the self interest of an alchoholic at a beer festival. Lets look at the facts eh...hardly anyone votes in european elections - why not? because they are always seen as bogus, corrupt officials with their heads in the troughs paid for at the tax payers expense.

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I thought A Walker said you were interested in giving political 'nounce' this rather more looks like anti-Blairite attacks on the policies! Top up fees etc have nothing to do with the original thread. If people are apathetic to the political system - it is their choice. Politics should not be rammed down people's throats. What is next, enforced citizenship in a hard-line Stalinist regime? (jbooth)

Top up fees had everything to do with the original thread. To quote myself: “Only one in five under 30 could name him whereas two-thirds over 50 successfully knew his name. This is very surprising as Charles Clarke has received a great deal of publicity over the last few weeks as he has been seeking support for highly controversial policies concerning the funding of higher education.”

Your strategy of linking citizen education it to the idea of a “hard-line Stalinist regime” is disingenuous. There is no evidence that when Stalin was in power he attempted to introduce citizenship education into the Soviet curriculum. Like all dictators, Stalin did not like the idea of your people being taught about political rights. To survive, dictators depend on the population being politically illiterate.

The imagery of politics being “rammed down people’s throats” is an interesting one. If this is true of teaching politics in schools, is it not also true of other, less controversial subjects? If not, what evidence do you have that politics/citizenship is taught differently from any other subject?

I am a History Teacher and I value good history teaching - all this mumbo jumbo about citizenship smacks to me of nannying the people, telling them what to do, when to do it and what to say in the event of having a thought. (jbooth)

All education has an element of telling people what to do. Is citizenship education any different from this? You appear to be suggesting that history teaching is value free whereas citizenship teaching is politically biased. The idea of introducing citizenship into the curriculum was politically motivated. The idea originally came from Bernard Crick who was working as an adviser to David Blunkett, when he was Education Secretary. Crick was a member of the Labour Party but had got the idea from what had been going on in the United States. The policy, favoured by members of the Democratic Party, was to encourage young people to become actively involved in the community. (I should at this stage admit that Francine Britton, the person who pioneered the scheme in the United States and was brought over to Britain to advise the government, is a personal friend, and this could be influencing my views on the subject.)

You could argue that Bernard Crick and Francine Britton were politically motivated in the sense they wanted to increase participation in the political process. It is indeed a liberal idea that I would be willing to defend. In fact, without this active participation in the running of society, democracy is a sham.

Lord knows what it will be like in a 'pan European community'. Why else do you think Blair is looking at lowering the voting age to 16! Next it will be only those with GCSE in Citizenship to vote - what is next, political education in the classroom, political educators deciding the electorate in the classroom! why don't we all start waving the red flag and calling the Cold War a draw. (jbooth)

This statement is an attempt to mix together all the things you apparently dislike: Europeanism, Citizenship Education, Tony Blair and Socialism. Although I am not convinced that they are natural bedfellows. I am not aware that Blair favours the idea of lowering the voting age to 16. In fact, I very much doubt it. Nor am I convinced that Blair is very keen on Citizenship Education (nor was David Blunkett when he discovered what it really entailed – although by that stage he had gone too far to retreat from the policy).

Once again you attempt this smear tactic of suggesting that Citizenship Education has something to do with Communism (State Capitalism would be a better description of it). Citizenship Education has nothing to do with dictatorships. In fact, the subject is only common in the more advanced democracies.

Surely by not voting in elections and being detached from the mainstream political process young people are simply setting up their own alternative forum for political action. (James Becket)

I suspect this is rarely the case. While it is true that people who attend political protest marches against “Global Capitalism” might well not vote in elections. The vast majority do not vote in elections because of political apathy rather than political commitment to a particular cause.

The whole concept of Citizenship education is surely just a sop from the privileged classes who control the western "democratic" system to give a pretence of valuing political participation. (James Becket)

That may be true but that should not stop those people who are fully committed to the democratic process to use the system against itself. In fact, I would argue that is how political progress has been made over the last 200 years.

Citizenship teachers should be helping their students to go on anti-war protests or to organise petitions against the tyranny of Westminster politics if that is what the students want to do. (James Becket)

I am very uneasy about this statement. While it is true that citizenship education might lead to students going on demonstrations or signing petitions, I think it is undesirable for teachers to be seen as organizing these activities. There would then be some truth in the statement that citizenship education was in fact really political indoctrination.

Teachers cannot do Citizenship without being political. Maybe putting it on the curriculum will be the long term undoing of the present political system. (James Becket)

I agree that teaching citizenship is a highly political act. So also, is the teaching of history. In its original form citizenship education did have the potential to threaten our flawed democratic system. However, the government has watered down the original proposals of Bernard Crick and Francine Britton. This is especially true of the elements where the students becoming involved in the political life of the community. By the time they have finished, it will be a totally classroom based course with a compulsory GCSE exam at the end of it.

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We hear a lot about political apathy. The myth of the "apathy of young people" took a severe blow when thousands took part in the anti war protests. What they have is a considerable mistrust of politicians. That is not the same as apathy.

Likewise teachers. Most teachers have a clear idea what they think about SATS, about teachers' pay, about government "initiatives", about privatisation (would the school be better or worse if McDonalds were running it - not a v difficult question!). Their "apathy" consists in a perception that it does not matter who the secretary of state for education is. They come and go. They do not improve matters.

That could be called apathy but as Frank Herbert said "democracy is a system in which the people do not trust the government." and sometimes that is quite a good summary :D

Have a nice day.

Derek McMillan

Socialist

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We hear a lot about political apathy. The myth of the "apathy of young people" took a severe blow when thousands took part in the anti war protests. What they have is a considerable mistrust of politicians. That is not the same as apathy.

Likewise teachers. Most teachers have a clear idea what they think about SATS, about teachers' pay, about government "initiatives", about privatisation (would the school be better or worse if McDonalds were running it - not a v difficult question!). Their "apathy" consists in a perception that it does not matter who the secretary of state for education is. They come and go. They do not improve matters.

That could be called apathy but as Frank Herbert said "democracy is a system in which the people do not trust the government." and sometimes that is quite a good summary.

I would be the first to agree that the anti-war protests showed that a significant number of people still feel very strongly about politics. My concern is that the vast majority of the population does not share this passion about political events.

You rightly say that most teachers agree about the merits of SATS and the privatisation of education. The NUT recently asked its members to vote on the following question:

"In order to protest against the extra workload and constraints upon professional judgement imposed by directions to teach for National Curriculum tests and tasks at Key Stage 1 and National Curriculum tests at Key Stage 2, are you willing to take action short of strike action by refusing to comply with such directions or undertake work required in consequence of the National Curriculum testing arrangements, including any direction to participate directly in preparation and assessment arrangements for the National Curriculum tests and tasks in your school?"

An impressive 86.2% of those who voted said yes. However, only 34.05% of members voted and this meant that industrial action could not be taken. Surely, the number of people who failed to vote, is another indication of the political apathy that exists in the profession.

You rightly say that a large percentage of people have a considerable mistrust of politicians. However, the question is: What are people doing about it? Public opinion polls and national and local elections suggests that large numbers are choosing not to vote. In a democracy this means that those who do not vote are handing over power to those who do. This will not only be reflected in election results but in the policies being offered by the political parties. As I said in an earlier posting, this will result in the opinions of young people being ignored by politicians.

The recent NUT ballot also sends a message to Tony Blair’s government. That is, teachers are opposed to its policy on SATS, but not enough of them feel strongly enough to do anything about it. In other words, they can continue with this policy and the other proposed policies that they know are unpopular with teachers.

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Guest ChristineS

Blimey! A lot of different topics all at once. Teacher apathy; SAT testing, youth apathy; the apathy of the poor; erosion of human rights, European Union, Citizenship and indocrination.....

I can only give a highly selective response. I have to say that I am with Derek on this. Nice points, Derek!

I firmly believe that its the job of education to give people the tools to think with; not tell them what to think. (The role of education in a society is in itself a source of perpetual debate, isn't it?) In reality it is impossible not to add bias into content but we really do not have any place to be setting out an agenda for what we - or whoever - feels citizenship ought to be. That sort of decision is made by a sort of social consensus; good or bad. Attempt to 'stop the rot' never work; history shows us that.

I have always considered it perhaps well-meaning, but essentially patronising for some sort of elite to feel that they should be leading the people in what to think about for 'their own good'. It is also natural; is it not so that the Romans worried about the same thing? :)

For instance, the problem is not that the poor are apathetic but that they are poor and thus disenfranchised by their poverty in a capitalist society which uses disposable income as a means of determine worth; no extra subject on the curriculum is going to alter that. I believe the apathy is largely (although not wholly) a result of the political climate, not the cause of it; the cause is far deeper and more complex than that and so cannot be redressed by simple attempt to explain things to people - things people are usually already aware of.

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