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6 September, 2007

Citizenship Foundation calls for wider support for citizenship education

Citizenship should be a badge of pride but there is still a lot of work to be done, said Citizenship Foundation Chairman Michael Maclay today.

Citizenship Foundation Chairman Michael Maclay accepting the 2007 Carl Bertelsmann Prize.
The Citizenship Foundation won the 2007 Bertelsmann Prize for engaging young people with their communities

Mr Maclay was speaking at the award ceremony in Guetersloh, Germany, for the 2007 Carl Berteslmann Prize. The prize was awarded to the Citizenship Foundation last month for its work in engaging young people with their communities.

Addressing an audience that included German Chancellor Angela Merkel and school pupils from London, Mr Maclay spoke of the challenges facing citizenship education.

"One of the difficulties in getting political, educational and corporate leaders to engage with questions of citizenship," he said, "is the fact that the concept covers such a dizzying range of the problems facing us."

"If you look at the stories leading the news today in my country, the United Kingdom, you will see the following: gun-crime, led by the funeral today of a ten year old boy shot in all likelihood by a young man in his teens; knife-crime, following a rash of awful incidents this summer; low educational achievement and political proposals to remedy it; disillusion with politics on the part of young people; an initiative for Islamic schools to address what are British norms and values; and the question of whether the government is being held properly accountable to voters, on the question of a European constitutional treaty.

"Itís therefore more than a little irritating that citizenship education should be attacked on the one hand for being too much apple pie and motherhood, and on the other for being pure political correctness. One minute it is government brainwashing, the next itís too general to be rigorous.

"The range of complicated social problems it addresses does not always create a convenient format for policy-makers, head-teachers or corporate funders to tick the box. In meeting the needs and language of young people - their imagination and their idealism - it has to be innovative to succeed. It must be creative. It has to be ambitious, too.

"The idea of effective and active citizenship ... must be something worth striving for. There is a huge amount of work to be done in making citizenship a badge of pride, given the range of challenges our citizens face at all of these levels."

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