Thursday, 14 February 2019
Around the turn of the century, while I was still teaching part-time, I was dragooned into compulsory after-school in-service training. The speaker was a big-wigs from the Local Education Authority (LEA) whose mission was to instruct us in the importance of Citizenship Education. Young people should know the importance of voting, the important things the council did over and above the collecting of rubbish, how it was vital in a healthy democracy for citizens to be informed and to participate by exercising their vote
As frequently the only social science teacher on the staff, I have several times been lumbered with somebody's bright idea for a "Civics" programme. I have never found then particularly successful. My experience has been that pupils under the ages of 16 or so, just aren't all that bothered, nor in the intricacies of obtaining mortgages, or the perils of hire-purchase, as it used to be called. Much the same applies to many things that adults years away from the classroom feel that the young "ought" to be taught. Maybe my approach was wrong.
I explained this to the speaker, and argued that, if we really want to interest pupils in democracy the best approach is to offer them some democratic control over their own lives - uniform, meals, meal times and break times, lengths of lessons, maybe what sports, arts, subject options are available, school rules, rewards and punishment - via some sort of school council Simply electing a from captain with the duty of keeping the form room tidy was not enough.
This did not receive a positive response.
A few weeks later hundreds of pupils in local schools (though sadly, not ours) abandoned their classes to go on protest marches on some aspect of government policy. ( I had thought is was the Iraq War, but that wasn't until 2003 and I had retired by then - so I can't now be sure what.)
Predictably the LEA was outraged and highly condemnatory.
Similar negative reactions have been expressed about the proposed co-ordinated action tomorrow (Friday 15th February) when hundreds of thousands of UK school children are invited to abandon their classes to protest against our politicians' timid approach to tackling climate change,and their their rank failure to teat the climate crisis as a crisis.
All power to their elbows.
No one knows what exactly the consequences will be if climate change continues on its present course. One speculation about the nature of our dystopian future is depicted in John Lanchester's new novel, The Wall. (Faber and Faber, 2019.)
It is not pleasant, and it is our children who will experience it, or something like it. Lanchester's novel clearly expresses the contempt they will feel towards a previous generation which failed to take action to avert what he ominously calls "The Change.."
Post script: (added Saturday 16th February.)
Well, apparently between 10 000 and 15 000 turned out in the UK, which isn't a lot when you consider that there are several million schoolchildren.
There were some clever home-made posters. My favourite was:
"March now - or swim later" (read Lanchester's book to see ho appropriate that is.)
"I've seen smarter cabinet's in IKEA" is clever, but far from specific to climate change.
There's been plenty of coverage in the media and that I've seen or read (Channel 4 News, BBC and Guardian) has been hugely supportive.) Maybe the Daily mail took a different take. Al I can find on their 0n-line edition is:
Nothing like accentuating the negative.
Nine year old Daniel Miliband was there with his Dad, former \Labour Leader Ed Miliband to keep an eye on him. Young Daniel had learned his lines carefully: "I am hare because it is our future and we need to protedt it."
All in all, a good and useful time seems to have been had by all.