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12 August, 2011

Citizenship Foundation statement on recent disturbances in England

Our organisation exists to encourage active participation by all citizens in our democracy.

We roundly condemn the lawlessness we have seen over the last few days which has failed to benefit anybody’s cause. We support the rule of law, for which the Citizenship Foundation has actively promoted educational projects for more than a generation, enabling young people to have their voices heard as a right and responsibility.

We are concerned that young people should not be demonised. As the media and the government have recognised, there are countless young people in our cities engaging in constructive projects to improve their world, not to destroy it. We are working with many of them. We know that the majority of young people condemn these violent outbreaks of lawlessness – they do not condone them.

One thing that these tragic events has demonstrated is the need for effective citizenship education at all levels in our society, giving young people a clear understanding of their responsibilities in their communities.

We are concerned that many communities have lost the civic go-betweens in the community that have enabled their integration because of recent government cuts. Professionals such as youth and community workers are vanishing. We are not taking a political stance on how the government runs the economy. But the loss of these crucial intermediary figures can quickly become cost-ineffective, as events of the past week suggest.

We hope the government will recognise the importance of citizenship education within the national curriculum and the role of school teachers as civic go-betweens on a daily basis, using the means they have been trained to employ: education. They are not proxy parents who need to enforce discipline: they exist to educate and to enable young people to make sense of the world around them and responsibly administer the future society that they inherit from us.

Within the curriculum they teach, it is only citizenship that enables all young people to be taught how society works and how to take their place in it. These awful outbreaks of looting do not disprove its value – they only make clear its necessity.

This statement was revised at 4.30pm, 12 August 2011.


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