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16 May, 2006

Should Children be taught traditional British values in citizenship lessons?

The Citizenship Foundation welcomes the debate about the importance of citizenship education launched today by Higher Education Minister Bill Rammell, but cautions against a ‘selective historical approach’ to teaching British values.

Rammel’s approach would seek to show that values already included in the citizenship curriculum, such as freedom of speech, civic responsibility, and democracy, have developed historically to create a modern sense of British identity.

Since its introduction, the citizenship curriculum has required teachers to teach the rights and responsibilities of citizenship, about our diverse multi-cultural society, about the importance of resolving issues in a fair, democratic and non-violent fashion, the value of voting and the role of the media in a free society.

The citizenship curriculum also expects students to learn the skills of rational discussion, evidence-based argument, and to learn the values necessary for people with different views about society to engage in reasoned dialogue about what kind of society they would like to live in.

Values such as freedom of speech, civic responsibility, democracy and respect are central to the citizenship curriculum, and provide the climate for open and honest debate. A selective historical approach could limit scope for this kind of discussion in the classroom by trying to impart a particular, narrow or contested viewpoint upon students, and by doing so, could undermine the importance of the values it is trying to promote.

Don Rowe, Director of Curriculum Development and Resources at the Citizenship Foundation said: “The citizenship curriculum provides the only curriculum space in which all young people can discuss items in the news like the Iraq War. They hear a wide range of viewpoints on such issues from home, amongst peers, at their place of worship, in the media and so on. It is vital that schools provide time and space for reflection and exploration of these different perspectives and also develop the thinking skills to help students think carefully about competing positions and make their own mind up. Citizenship teachers need to be models of rationality and fair-mindedness.“

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