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History and Citizenship

'Why do all regimes make their young study some history in school? Not to understand society and how it changes, but to approve of it, to be proud of it, to be or become good citizens.'

Eric Hobsbawn, 'To see the future, look at the past', The Guardian, 7 June 1997

stars On a recent visit to the United States I was struck by the number of houses which had a large Stars and Stripes flag flying in the garden. I have not come across many houses in England which have the Union Jack flying in the garden. Does this mean that the US has better or more loyal citizens than we do, or that they take citizenship more seriously? A recent international survey (Broadfoot, P., Osborn, M., Planel, C. and Sharpe, K. 2000, Promoting quality of learning: does England have the answer? London, Cassell) found that 57% of young people felt proud of their nationality in France, as against only 35% in Britain. Is this because they have better weather than us, or a more successful national football team, or is it the fault of bad or ineffective history teaching in schools, or is it not the business of history teachers to encourage young people to be proud to be British (or English, Scottish etc)?

'Arguing about the past has become a vital part of being a member of society, an ordinary but important act of citizenship, a factor in establishing the idea of a home as a place where you would like to belong, and might be allowed to stay.' Marina Warner, BBC Reith Lectures, 1994, quoted in 'Myth and memory', David Cesarani, The Guardian, 24 January.

To what extent are these claims true- and what do states mean by a 'good' citizen? The rulers of Sparta, Athens, Rome, Jacobin France, Nazi Gemany, Soviet Russia, Victorian England and post-war Holland had different views about what constitutes 'the good citizen' . Do governments want citizens who are docile, unquestioning and compliant, or critical, questioning and independent-minded? There is an 'official' position on what constitutes the good citizen in Britain at the start of the 21st century, which can be found in the stated general values, aims and purposes of the school curriculum as outlined in pages 10-13 of The National Curriculum (DfES/QCA, 1999) The statement about values in the National Curriculum is available at www.nc.uk.net/statement_values.html

Are you aware of the current 'position' on what constitutes citizenship education? What are the 3 main strands and 4 elements of citizenship education advocated by the Final Report of the Advisory Group on Citizenship (The Crick Report), Education for the citizenship and the teaching of democracy in schools? (DfEE/QCA, 1998) Click here for the answer

Are you familiar with the National Curriculum for Citizenship for KS3 and KS4? What does it say about citizenship? See www.nc.uk.net

(I am not suggesting that you commit all these things to memory, but it is interesting to think about the extent to which these things are happening in practice, and the extent to which current arrangements lend themselves to making these things happen).

It is important to remember that there are very different ideas about the ways in which school history can contribute to citizenship education. At the time of the post-Dearing review of the National Curriculum, the debate about citizenship education focused largely around the question of ideas about national identity, and the part which school history might play in this.

Dr Nick Tate, the Chief Executive responsible for the school curriculum made a number of high profile contributions to the debate about citizenship and school history, all of which focused on the question of national identity ('Why we must teach our children to be British' The Sun, 19 July 1995, Speech to the Council of Europe Conference on 'The role of history in the formation of national identity', York, 18 September 1995, 'National identity and the school curriculum', The Welsh Historian, No. 24, 7-9, 1996, speech to SCAA invitation conference on Curriculum Culture and Society, London, 7 February 1996).

The debate was taken up in the national press, with much discussion about 'What it means to be British at the end of the 20th Century', the extent to which pupils should be taught about British heroes and heroines, and the great events of our national past.

An 'e-conference' on school history, values, and national identity can be accessed at http://www.hten.org.uk (Go to the message board for instructions on how to access and contribute to the conference)

There are, however, other strands to the debate about the ways in which school history can contribute to citizenship education, and it is important to keep in mind that there is more to history and citizenship education than questions of national identity. Part of the responsibility of the history teacher is to broaden pupils' conceptions about what citizenship education might involve. Their experience of school history and citizenship should not be blinkered because their history teacher focuses exclusively on the element of citizenship which seems most important to them. They should at the very least be made aware that there are very different views about history and citizenship, and that views about what constitutes 'the good citizen' have changed over time and place.

The following extracts have been collected to try and make these points.

Professor Richard Aldrich makes the point that for much of the time that history has been on the school curriculum in Britain, its primary purpose has been to inculcate loyalty to the state and to promote moral exemplars of the good citizen whose key virtues are a willingness to defend the state from external threats or internal dissidents, to support the empire and appreciate the virtues and advantages of British parliamentary democracy. Aldrich characterises the traditional model of school history which pertained until the 1960s as:

'cast in broadly self-congratutatory and heroic, high political mould. Emphasis was placed upon the role of Britain as a peacemaker in India and other colonised countries, and as an opponent of tyrants from Napoleon to Hitler. Good government was exemplified by Westminster, the "mother of parliaments", Britain's role as leader in the industrial revolution, confirmed by the Great Exhibition of 1851, was seen as proof of the nation's technical and entrepreneurial skills. Missionaries like Wilberforce, Shaftesbury and Livingstone were hailed for having carried the Christian message into the darkest corners both of England and of the Empire.' (Aldrich, R. 1989, Class and gender in the study and teaching of history in England in the twentieth century, Historical Studies in Education, Vol. 1, No. 1, p. 121). Aldrich and Dean also point to the use of school history as a form of 'social cement', to bind the nation together (Aldrich, R. and Dean, D. 1991, The Historical Dimension, in Aldrich, R. ed. History in the National Curriculum, London, Kogan Page, pp. 93-113).

Characterised by David Sylvester as 'The Great Tradition' of history teaching, (Sylvester, D. 1994, Change and continuity in history teaching 1900-1993, in H. Bourdillon (Ed.) Teaching History, London, Routledge, 9-23), this version of school history was parodied by John Slater as follows:

'Content was largely British, or rather Southern English; Celts looked in to starve, emigrate or rebel; the North to invent looms or work in mills; abroad was of interest once it was part of the empire; foreigners were either, sensibly, allies, or rightly, defeated. Skills- did we even use the word? - were mainly those of recalling accepted facts about famous dead Englishmen, and communicating them in a very eccentric literary form, the exmination length essay.' (Slater, J. 1989, The politics of history teaching; a humanity dehumanised?, London, IEUL, p. 1).

The following two quotes illustrate the 'traditional' view about the purposes of school history in the UK:

In 1905, the Board of Education Report cited 'Obedience, loyalty, courage, strenuous effort, serviceableness' as 'all the qualities which make for good citizenship.'

In 1908, J. Willis-Bund, Chair of Worcestershire Education Committee urged history teachers to 'Bring before the children the lives and work of English people who served God in Church and State, to show that they did this by courage, endurance and self-sacrifice, that as a result, the British Empire was founded and extended, and that it behoved every child to emulate them.' (Quoted in Batho, G. 1986, From a test of memory to a training for life, in M. Price (Ed.) The Development of the Secondary Curriculum, London, Croom Helm, 214-238).

Perhaps unsurprisingly, at the outbreak of World War One, the Board of Education asked those responsible for the teaching of history schools to consider how history 'may best be used to serve national purposes.'(Memo. 6, on the teaching and organisation of Secondary Schools: Modern European History 1914, Circular 869).

For a a short time after the war, a more internationalist strand appeared in the rationale for school history. There was, in some quarters, a concern that nationalistic modes of history teaching may have been one of the factors contributing to the outbreak of the war. Drummond argued that 'The child at school should be brought to realise the solidarity of mankind and to have a feeling of community, indifferent to class, nation or race.' (Drummond, H. 1929, History in Schools, p. 81)

However, as late as 1952, the Ministry for Education explained that the rationale for school history was 'very largely moral, because it is a matter of introducing them to their responsibilities. If the soldiers and sailors who followed Marlborough and Wellington, Drake and Nelson, had defended the independence of this country from foreign danger, they in their turn might be called upon to do likewise. It the yeomen who supported Pym and Hampden had won parliamentary liberties, they might be called upon to defend and also to exercise those liberties.' (Ministry of Education, 1952, Teaching History: Pamphlet No. 23, London, HMSO, 5-14.)

In 1994, Secretary of State for Education John Patten stated that 'To have national pride should be seen as a virtue not a vice. That is why the Prime Minister and I are determined to see British history at the heart of history teaching in our schools.' (Department for Education Press Release 70/94). In another speech he stated that 'All children must understand such key concepts as empire, monarch, crown, church, nobility, peasantry.... Public education sysems contribute to a willingness of persons to define themselves as citizens, to make personal sacrifices for the community and to accept legitimate decisions of public officials.' (Television broadcast, BBC1, 24 March 1994).

As Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher argued that pupils should study 'those periods of our history when greatest progress was achieved compared to earlier times and when Britain was furthest in advance of other nations' ((quoted in Little, V. 'A National Curriculum in History; a very contentious issue', British Journal of Educational Studies, 1990, Vol. XXXVIII, pp. 319-334. In a 1992 election address she stated that 'We are quite different from the rest of Europe... we alone have not been occupied or defeated for nearly a thousand years: they have regularly. We alone defeated the tyrannies in Europe or rescued other people from it. We are a remarkable people and it's right that we should keep our sovereignty and national character.' (Election address Stockport 23 March 1992, quoted in Stockport Express 26 March 1992).

It might be noted here that in the 1980s, some left-leaning Local Education Authorities tried to use school history to promote a different set of values and attitudes in young people, by using history to persuade pupils of the virtues and benefits of cultural pluralism and multicultural society. David Edgington of the Inner London Education Authority talked of 'the healing role' of school history (Edgington, D. 1982, 'The role of history in multi-cultural education', Teaching History, No. 32, pp. 3-7). It was school history as a bit like the Michael Jackson/Paul McCartney song 'Ebony and Ivory', with black and white living together in harmony, and a bit of 'apologising' for The Empire, thrown in. In my school in Manchester, the voyages of discovery were rechristened 'The voyages of exploitation', and when teaching the Industrial Revolution, some history teachers placed considerable emphasis on the fact that we had the first one by exploiting our empire. One colleague criticised an exam question which asked about the advantages and disadvantages of being part of the British Empire because he argued that there weren't any advantages, and that children should be told that. What school history you got was to some extent dependent on what LEA you were taught in. If you were in the counties, you were more likely to get the traditional 'patriotic' history, if you were in the metropolitan boroughs, you were more likely to get 'multi-cultural' and 'anti-racist' history. There were also many teachers who thought that history should not address 'the affective domain', not be used to inculcate values and attitudes, but should confine itself to developing pupils' intellectual abilities. Secretary of State for Education John Patten echoed the concerns of many on the Right who feared that the move away from the model of school history teaching which had prevailed from Victorian times meant that schools were becoming 'value-free' zones, and complained about the insidious influence of 'cultural relativism'- children not being taught about 'what was right and wrong.' A good example of this school of thought can be found in an article by Donald Naismith, Directory of Education for Croyden; 'Unlike their counterparts in the inter-war years, most children leave school with little knowledge or understanding of the events which have shaped their country's history, and with even less prode in them... Britain has been silently repudiating its past and losing its self respect in the process.' ('My country right or wrong', Daily Telegraph, 17 July 1988).

The past 30 years have generally seen a move away from the notion of citizenship through school history outlined by the above quotes, towards a more critical and questioning approach to the national past, and towards a belief that school history and citizenship should be at least in part about helping young people to handle information intelligently and critically. This means using school history to try and develop the intellectual autonomy of young people, rather than as a vehicle to condition their values and attitudes. (As Secretary of State for Education, David Blunkett argued that school should help pupils develop the citizenship skill of discerning between 'information and propaganda.' (Address to Conference on Citizenship, Institute of Education, University of London, 7 July 1999). (In a radio interview, he also said that 'We must infiltrate children's minds if we are to have a society worth growing up in.' (BBC News, 19 October 1996).

These developments evinced a counter-reaction from those who regretted the move away from more traditional renderings of citizenship through school history. John Major claimed that there had been 'an insidious attack' on school history (quoted in Chitty, C. and Simon, B. eds. 1993, Education answers back, London, Lawrence and Wishart), and John Stokes M.P. asked in the House of Commons, 'Why cannot we go back to the good old days when we learnt by heart the names of the kings and queens of England, the feats of our warriors and our battles and the glorious deeds of our past?' (Stokes, J. 1990, quoted in Daily Telegraph, 1 April.

There was a storm of protest when the Archbishop of Canterbury stated that Britain was just 'an ordinary little nation' (Carey, G. in 'Revelations: the clergy questioned' quoted in Daily Telegraph, 6 April, 1994). Historian Paul Johnson claimed that 'To be born British is to draw first prize in the lottery of life... We traduce Britain's glory if we teach a history which makes us seem just like anyone else.'Daily Mail, 30 April, 1994).

So, although there has been a move away from the idea of school history to produce loyal, obedient and unquestioning patriots, there are still differing views about citizenship and school history. Because of this, it is helpful to look to the 'official' current guidance on citizenship education (see references above to the Crick Report and the N/C for Citizenship).

Some further quotes which provide perspectives on education for citizenship through school history

'The effectiveness of the truly national leader consists in preventing his people from dividing their attention and keeping it fixed on a common enemy.', Adolf Hitler, quoted in A.C. Grayling, 'The last word on nationalism', The Guardian, 26 February 2000.

'I suppose I have some reservations about myself as a man of moral strength... It's a bad way of reading history, but it's interesting to think, say, what would you have done in Paris under the occupation? The truth was that any writer who stayed on in those years- De Beauvoir, Camus, Sartre- was a collaborator, because they signed a bit of paper saying 'I'm not a Jew' and therefore sanctioned all that followed. What would I have done? I think I 'd have been brave in battle because people were watching, but in those little, private decisions that really counted, I have to say, I doubt it.' Clive James, Interview with Tim Adams, 'The famous Clive', The Observer, 24 June 2001.

'The major problem humanity faces is not the general development of skill and intelligence but devising a society that can use it wisely.' Jerome Bruner, 1972.

'Our best destiny, as planetary cohabitants, is the development of what has been called "species consciousness"- something over and above nationalisms, blocs, religions, ethnicities. During this week of incredulous misery, I have been trying to apply such a consciousness and such a sensibility. Thinking of victims, the perpetrators and the near future, I felt species grief, then species shame, then species fear.' Martin Amis, 'The first circle of hell', The Guardian, 18 September 2001.

The curriculum of Lake County, Florida, stipulates that teachers can only discuss other countries if they make it clear that Americans are 'unquestionably superior' to any other nation 'now or at any time in history.' Board of Education spokesperson Judy Pearson explained that such an approach was felt to be necessary for young people who, 'If they felt our land to be inferior or equal to others would have no motive to go to war and defend our country.' (Quoted in The Guardian, 16 May 1994)

'Properly taught, it (history) can help men to become critical and humane, just as wrongly taught, it can turn them into bigots and fanatics.' Christopher Hill, Suggestions on the teaching of history, Paris, UNESCO, 1953, p. 9.

''Nationhood is part of the foundation of our society and it is more of an issue than it has been for a long time. The nature of the state is in question. A child needs this grounding in national history to become a citizen... as well as an appreciation of the great political events of world history; the French and Russian Revolutions, the rise of the Nazis.' Anthony Freeman, 'History Man comes in from the cold', The Times, 8 October 1992.

'We need to educate new migrants in citizenship and help them to develop an understanding of our language, democracy and culture.', David Blunkett, quoted in 'Citizenship classes for immigrants' (concern that there is a need to promote common citizenship between members of different communities because parts of British society have become effectively segregated sometimes on ethnic lines)The Guardian, 26 October 2001.

'Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they recover their senses slowly, and one by one.' Charles MacKay, 1841, Extraordinary popular delusions and the madness of crowds, quoted in Burkeman, O., 'Waiting for the revolution', The Guardian, 5 December 2001.

'It is not a school's task to produce good citizens any more than it is to produce Christian gentlemen. The school does not give people their political ideals or religious faith, but the means to discover both for themselves. Above all it gives them the scepticism so that they leave with the ability to doubt, rather than the inclination to believe. In this sense, a good school is subversive of current orthodoxy in politics, religion and learning. Of course, by placing the emphasis on radical independence of mind, we run the risk of producing, for example, an intelligent traitor rather than a stupid patriot. But the risk of failing is much greater, because the result may be a sham democracy in which citizens do not have the independence to participate.' John Rae, 'On teaching independence', New Statesman, 21 September 1973.

'Why were there so many soldiers in the country when there wasn't a war? Why were there so many apricot trees in the countryside but never any apricots in the shops? Why is there fog in the city in summer? The questions were not so dangerous, and Peter had answered them easily enough. Because they are there to protect us. Because we sell them for hard currency that we need, because there are so many factories working at full capacity. Angelina was always content with the answers. What stirred him most was the innocent child's passive satisfaction with responses he knew to be plausible evasions. Her blithe acceptance troubled him profoundly. As he lay awake, fretting in the dark, Angelina's condition expanded until it became symptomatic of the whole country. Could a nation lose its capacity for scepticism, for useful doubt? What if the muscle of contradiction atrophied from lack of exercise? Julian Barnes, 1992, The Porcupine, London, Jonathan Cape, pp. 26-7.

If we could shrink the Earth's population to a village of precisely 100 people, with all the existing human ratios remaining the same, it would look something like the following:

There would be:

57 Asians

21 Europeans

14 from the Western Hemisphere, both North and south

8 Africans

52 would be female

48 would be male

70 would be non-white

30 would be white

70 would be non-Christian

89 would be heterosexual

11 would be homosexual

6 people would possess 59 % of the entire world's wealth and all 6 would be from the United States

80 would live in sub-standard housing

70 would be unable to read

50 would suffer from malnutrition

1 would be near death

1 would be near birth

1 would have a college education

1 would own a computer

(quoted in 'All the world's a village', Hopkins, H. , Norwich Advertiser, 9 March 2001

'The intellectual could not be a bystander:s(he) should be criticising, clarifying, dissenting, resisting deriding, exposing; in brief, educating in the fullest sense of the word as a member of the party of humanity.' Theodore Roszak, quoted in 'Higher Education in a time of international crisis', David Bridges, Broadview, October, 2001, Norwich, University of East Anglia.

'Official mendacity was common to all countries, whether or not their government depended on votes. Everywhere those in power laid hold of the means of informing people- and informed them in terms opposite to the truth. In this process, there was very little to choose between, for instance, the war propaganda of the Japanese government and British ministers' assumption that the purpose of the BBC and almost all of the free press was to state and argue the ministers' case.' Paul Foot, 'The menacing decade', review of The Dark Valley: a panorama of the 1930s, (Piers Bendon, London, Jonathan Cape), The Observer 3 June 2000.

'If history is not value-free, it is not a values-system. It does not seek either to sustain or devalue tradition, heritage or culture. It does not assume that there are shared values waiting to be defined and demanding to be supported. It does not require us to believe that a society's values are always valuable. If history seeks to guarantee any of these things, it ceases to be history and becomes indoctrination.' John Slater, 1989, The politics of history teaching, London, ULIE, pp. 15-16.

'I propose a crucial distinction which is often insuffiently understood; that between identity and citizenship. Instead of being so mesmerised by debates over British identity, it would be far more productive to concentrate of renovating British citizenship, and on convincing all the inhabitants of these islands that they are equal and valued citizens, irrespective of whatever identity they may selct to prioritise.' Linda Colley, 'Blueprint for Britain', The Observer, 12 December 1999.

'Things may be forlorn and messed up in terms of education and racism and health care but you've still got to demend your freedoms.... you have to inherently believe what the country stands for, or else you shouldn't live here.' David Schwimmer, explaining why if drafted by the US government, he would answer the call 'without hesitation', Observer Magazine, 25 November 2001.

'Nineteenth century historians undoubtedly were effective politically. they deliberately stoked up the fires of nationalism, and the consequences is that these fires are still raging today... The historian has a practical responsibility. His practical task in our time is to help his fellow human beings to save themselves from the social malady with which a previous school of historians has afflicted them.' Arnold Toynbee, Widening our historical horizon, in M. Ballard (Ed.) New movements in the study and teaching of history, London, Temple Smith, p. 60.

'Friendship, solidarity and even kindness rest on the notion that we share. As Aristotle said, there is no friendship among the unequal.' Will Hutton, 'The rich aren't cleverer, just richer', Observer, 1 April 2001.

'The essence of the independent mind lies in not in what it thinks but how it thinks.' Christopher Hitchens, 'Letters to a young contrarian', Guardian, 10 November 2001.

'What mattered were individual relationships, and a completely helpless gesture, an embrace, a tear, a word spoken to a dying man, could have value in itself. The proles, it suddenly occurred to him, had remained in this condition. They were not loyal to a party or a country or an idea, they were loyal to one another.' George Orwell, 1984, London, Penguin, (1949), p. 153.

'Farming lies at the very core of our British identity. It is what defines us.' Andrew O' Hagan, Guardian, 26 March 2001. (I put this one in just because it seemed a good example of a bizarre, out of touch with reality claim to make- but is this just because I am out of step on this?)

'The British public is often selfish, mindless, myopic and easily swayed by the nastiest newspapers in the world (which the people in their wisdom choose to buy). Poisonous public attitudes terrify the government on asylum seekers or ant-tax fuel blockades.. Angry consumers who treat government like customer services. Politicians are obliged to defer to them at all times.' Polly Toynbee, Guardian, 12 October 2001.

The strict duty of every school is to ensure that, by the end of their school days, every pupil has what I shall call a grounding. By this I mean an understanding of those things which it is necessary to understand in order to take a properly independent part in the life of our society. To be such an independent actor, people must be able to comprehend information of divers sorts, otherwise they are unable to make properly independent choices about their jobs, their houses, their everyday purchases, their travel and so on. They must be able to make sense of the newspapers, and the spoken words of public life, since how else can they hold independent, informed attitudes about their governors, and the political system... And, perhaps most important of all, people must be able to express themselves with sufficinet clarity both onpaper and in speech, to make themselves fairly understood, since they are otherwise virtually unable to cope with the choices which are the stuff on independent life in our society, or to be recognised by others as possessors of an independent voice, worthy of being heard in its own right.' Oliver Letwin, 1989, 'Grounding comes first', in B. Moon, P. Murphy and J. Raynor (eds) Policies for the curriculum, London, Hodder and Stoughton.

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